Because I lack originality, I'm going to do something that has been done dozens of times before for my game previews. It will be the three keys. Each week I will list three things that I think will most determine the outcome of the weekend's game. With the Bruins heading to Knoxville, here are my three keys:
1) Special Teams- Just take a look at last year's game between these two team if you need to know why special teams is so important. The blocked punt by UCLA kept them in it, the inability to kick it deep and cover let Tennessee send the game to overtime, then UCLA's made field goal, coupled with the Vols' miss gave the Bruins the win. Special teams won UCLA last year's game and may have to do it again.
The Bruins are already the underdog as they head to hostile territory and will need a big play on special teams in addition to good field position if they are to come out on top. Jeff Locke showed a big leg on kickoffs last week, his first kick aside, with kicks to the goal line that were towards the sideline and had plenty of hang time. The Bruins will need that again as well as one big return, either in the kicking or punt game, to swing field position.
2) Where Is Eric Berry?- The Vols' All-American safety is a major playmaker who can make an impact against the run or the pass. The key for UCLA will be to keep Berry out of the box, which will only happen if the Vols respect the Bruins' passing game. If the passing game isn't a threat, Berry will sneak into the box, as you can see him doing in the picture above, and shut down the Bruins' run game.
UCLA has a chance to pick up decent yardage against a seven man front, but against an eight man front, not so much and the time of possession that goes along with the running game will be huge. The Bruins lack depth along the defensive front so limiting the time they spend on the field will be key to stopping a UT offense that ran the ball at will last week. The UCLA offense will play a big role in keeping the UCLA defensive front off the field and that will be by running the ball, which can only happen if Berry isn't in the box.
3) The First Five Minutes of the Second Half- The crowd will play a big role in Saturday's outcome. The impact of 100,000+ fans clad in orange surrounding an inexperienced Bruin squad cannot be underestimated. That said, the Bruins have a chance to get to halftime still in a close game and that's when the first five minutes of the second half come into play. The UCLA coaching staff will have to outcoach the Tennessee coaching staff and right after halftime is when you will see it. Those five minutes are also the point where the crowd is at its quietest and the Bruins must take advantage of it.
When the Bruins get a respite from the crowd, they need to turn the game around. A score to start the second half or stop and score will keep the crowd at bay for a bit so long as UCLA is still in the game and give them some confidence heading down the stretch. it will also bring back memories of last year, which can help the Bruins and plant a seed of doubt in the Vols' heads. If the Bruins can get the game to half still locked up in a close one and then win the first five minutes of the second half, they will win the game.