Game day is here. With less than 8 hours left in the game WHO do you think is THE storyline for today's season opener?
Photo: Myung J. Chun / LAT
Here is our first game day roundup for the 2006-07 school season:
Lonnie White on Big Ben's much anticipated debut:
"It's always interesting whenever a guy has to take charge of the whole team for the first time," said Jim Colletto, UCLA's veteran offensive line coach. "It's important for us to help him by not overloading the guy in his first game. I don't care who it is, a season opener is always a lot different for the guy playing in his first game of college football than for someone who has played for a while."
At 6 feet 5, 227 pounds, Olson has all the tools of a star-in-the-making. He has size, a strong left arm, plus the humbleness of a walk-on.
You think Big Ben is ready for today? Well check this out from the Salt Lake Tribune:
UCLA likely will roll Olson out of the pocket to avoid a Utah pass rush that Ute coach Kyle Whittingham says is a key to "making the quarterback uncomfortable." Bolstering the run game is thought to be a priority for the Bruins, in order to take pressure off their old, but inexperienced QB. Still, Olson says, throwing the ball remains his "biggest strength."
Informed that Whittingham has indicated some uncertainty as to what Olson will bring toward his defense, Olson laughs, and then says, "That's the way I like it. The world will soon know."
In the hours leading up to his long-delayed starting debut, he acts more excited, lifted, he says, by his preparation, than nervous. As he looks back at the extended delay, one that has caused already high expectations to swell further, Olson insists he's glad he went on a mission, and that he wanted to return to BYU, "but, at the end of the day, I knew I couldn't." Delayed or otherwise, the whole thing at UCLA, he says, has worked out for the best.
Brian Dohn has more on the Southpaw Jesus's first start for the Bruins.
Meanwhile, other big story line for the day is the new DC DeWayne Walker's defense. From OC Register's Robert Kuwada:
The schemes that new defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker brings to UCLA, for one.
"We're going to fly around and make plays, that's all I can say," defensive end Justin Hickman said. "People are just going to have to see, come (today)."
The attitude instilled since before spring practices by Walker and the new additions to the Bruins' defensive staff, for another.
"He's been talking about just letting loose, letting loose, attacking, and making plays," Hickman said.
Added Lombard: "This year it's been about starting fast, everybody doing their job and being in their gap, making a play when it's their turn to make a play."
More on keys to today's game from Lonnie Whites' game notes:
2 Test Taylor: Utah's spread offense is known for its passing, but expect the Utes to run at UCLA middle linebacker Christian Taylor, a junior making his second college start. Two former Orange County high school stars, running backs Mike Liti (Santa Ana Foothill) and USC transfer Darryl Poston (Huntington Beach Edison), should get plenty of early work against the Bruins' run defense, which ranked among the nation's worst last season. An interesting matchup to watch will be whenever Utah's 311-pound tackle, Tavo Tupola, a four-year starter, goes against UCLA's 237-pound right defensive end, Bruce Davis.
3 Earn field position: UCLA's kicking game is better than average because of senior Justin Medlock, one of the best in the nation. Medlock gives the Bruins a chance to score every time they cross midfield, but they'll also need a strong effort from sophomore punter Aaron Perez, who struggled at times last season. Sophomore Louie Sakoda will handle both punts and field-goal attempts for Utah. One of UCLA's return men -- Chris Markey, Alterraun Verner or Jeremy McGee -- could be a difference-maker.
We will have a game thread up later this afternoon for those who will be following the game both via the tube and online. Again, if you are headed towards the Rose Bowl you know what to do.
Here is to a perfect Saturday.