Well, THAT was quite a show put on by the UCLA Bruin Football team (1-0) last Sunday night. Personally, I am still recovering and processing the Bruin victory, but in a good way. It’s time to turn the page though.
Welcome to Pregame Guesses, week 2, where you can test your luck in answering questions about tomorrow’s game against the University of Hawai’i (2-0). With wins over UMass on the road, 38-35, and Western Carolina at home, 41-18, Hawai’i comes to the Rose Bowl undefeated and led by starting quarterback, Dru Brown. This is the first time the Warriors have returned a QB since 2011!
Perhaps more troubling for the Bruins, who struggled to contain the Texas A&M rushing attack last weekend, Hawai’i also returns starting running back, Diocemy Saint Juste, a 1,000 yard rusher from last season who already has 280 yards through two games this season. Hawai’i’s rushing offense (and UCLA's ability or inability to stop it) will be part of PGG today.
But it is just Hawai’i, right? To borrow a tired expression from a Hall of Fame broadcaster, "not so fast, my friend." Dating back to last year, Hawai’i has won five straight games and had a better overall season (7-7) than UCLA (4-8) in 2016.
Let's break it all down and make some guesses. But first, time for some tunes.
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I had already selected a piece of music for today’s PGG at halftime last Sunday night. In light of the Bruins’ epic comeback, that track has been shelved. Hopefully, for the sake of Head Coach Jim Mora’s career at UCLA, it will stay on the shelf because that would mean that Mora has found success at the helm of the Bruins.
With that decision made, the artist for today’s selection was clear for me. The question was which track to select?
Well, it is not going to rain on Saturday (at least in Los Angeles; the forecast in MY future is not so good), so the field will be pristine, but I went with this track anyway because of the Hawai’i connecton and the football connection. It’s "Mud Football" by Hawai’i native, Jack Johnson.
I love the song, Johnson is from Hawai'i, and it's about football. No mud at the Rose Bowl, but close enough. Plus, I need some mellow tunes to chill me out for what is bound to be a crazy next couple of days.
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No, there won't be mud on the football field on Saturday, so it will be a fast track upon which Hawai'i back Saint Juste can run. Texas A&M rushed the ball 63 times against UCLA last Sunday, for 382 yards and five rushing touchdowns. That is a 6.1 yard average. Trayeon Williams himself had over 200 yards and averaged over nine yards a carry. These are abysmal numbers. Any observer could see that the UCLA rushing defense looked like wet crepe paper. Yeah, UCLA did better in the second half, especially after the Aggies' starting QB went down, and A&M became more one dimensional, but it is still a huge wart. Can the Bruins at least get back to defending the run the way that they did last season (i.e., average), when they were 63rd out of 128 teams? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: In 2016, UCLA surrendered 171.5 yards to opponents on the ground per game. True or false, Hawai'i will exceed 171.5 yards on the ground tomorrow.
Although he didn't get as many carries as Bolu Olurunfunmi, Soso Jamabo had a BIG impact on the game against Texas A&M. Jamabo carried the ball seven times for 46 yards (a 6.6 average) and a touchdown. He also caught a pass for 10 yards and, equally as important, his pass blocking appears to be much improved. Will Jamabo have a breakout year as a junior, after showing flashes as a freshman but experiencing an overall down year as a sophomore? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: Jamabo had eight total touches for 56 yards last weekend. True or false: Jamabo will double those numbers against Hawai'i, with at least 16 touches and 112 yards of total offense.
The unquestionable breakout player of the game in a UCLA uniform was tight end Caleb Wilson. A former Southern Cal walk on, Wilson hauled in 15 catches for 208 yards and was an essential cog in the UCLA offensive machine in the second half. Hawai'i will have watched game film, and will no doubt have a plan to stop him. Although I do not expect similar numbers tomorrow, I think Wilson will have another big game because, as we all know, you cannot stop Caleb Wilson, you can only hope to contain him! PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: Predict the number of receptions, yards receiving, and receiving touchdowns that Wilson will record against Hawai'i.
BONUS GUESS: After drawing what some might say was a surprising number of fans, 64,635, last weekend against an SEC opponent, UCLA faces a Mountain West opponent at the Rose Bowl. But there are only a handful of additional opportunities to watch Josh Rosen in a UCLA uniform. Will there be a drop off in attendance, or will fans clamor to see the Heisman contender showcase his talents on the hallowed turf of the Rose Bowl? Predict the attendance tomorrow.
Put a bow on it! Another Pregame Guesses is in the books. Test your prediction skills in the comment section below and, as always, Go Bruins!!!