I hope you enjoyed yesterday's preview of the out of conference games for UCLA Football in 2012. Here is the link in case you missed it.
As promised, today we bring you a breakdown of UCLA's away games in the Pac-12 conference for this season. Last year, the Bruins managed only 1 win on the road, against Oregon State. If you count the bowl game as an away game, UCLA was 1-7 on the road last year (1-5 in the Pac-12). That is one of the big things that Coach Mora must address this year. Be it discipline, focus, toughness, or simply just caring, something has to change drastically to overcome that pathetic trend.
Luckily for UCLA, the road games this year are far from daunting. This is one of the best schedules that we have had in recent memory and hopefully the team takes advantage of it.
With that, here is your preview after the jump.
@ Colorado: Saturday September 29, Boulder CO – time TBA
A month goes by before UCLA has its next away game, and once again it will be against a less than formidable opponent. Colorado will have one of the youngest teams in the country this season, and has a major question mark at QB, with only a potential transfer as a player with experience after the frontrunner Nick Hirschman broke his foot in the spring. Their best wide receiver, Paul Richardson (yes, he of the backpack theft threesome), was lost for the season with a knee injury. Their top running back Rodney Stewart is also gone. They will likely still have a reasonable running game, but their defense was atrocious last year, and it only gets younger this year. Hard to say if that will be for the better this year.
Quick analysis: despite being an away game, this should be one of the easiest matchups for UCLA this season. Boulder is going to be quite nice at the end of September, and UCLA should dominate in nearly all facets of the game. Consider this: even Colorado’s return game was worse than UCLA’s last year. That’s hard to do. The Buffs are hopefully on their way up, but it will be a couple of years before they are competitive in the Pac-12 again. We’ll see if Coach Embree can in fact turn around this program.
BN pick: 10 picked a win, 1 picked a loss
@ California: Saturday October 6, Berkeley CA – time TBA
So the Bruins follow up a month between road games with two road games in a row. This one against an old foe, our sister to the North, who for some reason has much angst towards its southern brethren. Oh well. The Tedford Mystery Tour continues, with 10 seasons under his belt. Lately, Cal has entered its season with much hope, only to be mired in inconsistency. Last year’s difficult season could however be explained by 1) playing away from their home stadium at the AT&T Park, which is not exactly ideal for football and 2) Zach Maynard’s inconsistency, coming in as a transfer from Buffalo. Cal gets its renovated Memorial Stadium back this year, but loses some key players all over the place. Most notably, they lose top WR Marvin Jones, both DEs and both Safeties, as well as 2011 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Mychal Kendricks. Even their 4-year punter is gone. At least stud receiver Keenan Allen is back, as well as a good running game.
Quick Analysis: I bet Cal wishes it had its stadium last year. That would likely have been worth a couple more wins. UCLA should know how an undesirable stadium affects performance…and even got to taste the awkward AT&T Park setting. But this is a big year for Cal: renovated stadium, amazing new athletic facilities…I’d say, Tedford is on the spot a bit, but that’s been true for a while, and he still has done more for Cal Football than anyone in recent memory. Yet the supposed QB guru has not really had an impactful QB since Aaron Rodgers…whom he found by chance anyway. If Maynard doesn’t step up, they’ll have to rely on their running game, given only Allen provides a receiving threat (though 5-star freshman Bryce Treggs could make an impact). You would think the UCLA defense could be competitive in this case, while hopefully the offense will be clicking by this time and take advantage of new personnel on Cal’s defense. But even with the turnover, the Bear D should still be quite good, with talented corners and a line that is always tough. I highly doubt we will see a repeat of the 2011 game at the Rose Bowl.
BN pick: tossup – 5 picked a win, 6 picked a loss
@ Arizona State: Saturday October 27, Tempe AZ – time TBA
I find it ironic that, after years of inconsistency despite big potential, ASU hires a coach who is known for his less than stellar loyalty. The loss at the Rose Bowl to UCLA pretty much sealed the nail in Dennis Erickson’s ASU coffin, after a season in which they were poised to win the division and even beat U$C before falling apart. Graham inherits a much weaker team, one that will lose its starting QB to the pros (with no experienced backup), the top 3 receivers are gone, as well as most of the OL, though some good running backs remain. The defense didn’t fare much better, losing both safeties, all three linebackers and the top pass rusher.
Quick Analysis: as road games go, UCLA gets pretty lucky once again, playing against a team in rebuilding mode. The trouble is, we still do not know what kind of UCLA team we will have at this time. I expect the defense to have found its groove by now, and given the talent and experience, they should really be getting the best of what looks to be an average ASU offense. The same can be said for the UCLA offense, which should find plenty of holes in this rebuild defense (which will be playing a base 4-3 and I suspect will look a lot like UCLA’s 2011 defense…). On paper, this should be an easy win for UCLA, but it is an away game which has been a nightmare for the Bruins, and you never know what impact a new coach can have.
BN pick: 10 picked a win, 1 picked a loss
@ Washington State: Saturday November 10, Pullman WA – time TBA
Shiver me timbers! Mike Leach arrives in Pullman, of all places, and is set to swing his sword and lay waste to the conference. And he arrives in a program that is eerily similar to his previous one: a small town location that is somehow able to attract some crazy good QBs. They already have a couple up there, though one of them is hurt. Still, Jeff Tuel may just be the second best QB in the Pac-12, and I’m not exaggerating. He’s also got a very good receiver, and a sneaky good running back. The only reason to not be petrified of this Leach-led offense is that their OL has had many injuries. But Leach QBs never need much time to throw. These guys are going to be scary. The defense is hard to gauge, with yet another team shifting to the 3-4, but apparently they are going to blitz all the time, led by new DC Mike Breske. We’ll see if his defense can be as effective as it was for Montana in the FCS, but at least it sounds exciting.
Quick Analysis: if Leach’s past is any indication, this Cougar team will be in many shootouts, even if it is not really by design this time around. By all accounts, Tuel is picking up the system pretty quickly, and that’s not a good sign for the rest of the conference. This late into the season, they could be firing on all cylinders, and unfortunately UCLA gets them at Pullman this year after two years in a row in the Rose Bowl. There is no doubt that from a talent perspective, UCLA is a much better team than Wazzu. But if the Bruins want to win this game, they will have to control the ball and cause turnovers, or they could fall way behind very early in this game.
BN Pick: 9 picked a win, 2 picked a loss. But I am changing my prediction, because that is the Chianti Dan karma for not hiring Leach, so 8 Wins and 3 Losses.
That's it folks. Come back Tuesday for the Pac-12 Home Games!