The UCLA Bruin football team (3-3; 1-2 PAC 12) limps into Pullman tonight for a 7:30 p.m. PT battle against the Washington State Cougars (3-2; 2-0 PAC 12). With Josh Rosen questionable for the game, most everybody is predicting a Wazzou win, which is not unreasonable considering UCLA's performance on the offensive side of the ball last week, Rosen's gutsy performance notwithstanding.
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Bitter disappointment. At a minimum, that was how UCLA fans felt following UCLA's 23-20 loss to Arizona State Saturday night and continuing forward. Some Bruin fans felt much, much worse. As a whole, UCLA fans are questioning the coaching staff, some of the players, and the administration. Many feel that UCLA will not even make it to bowl eligibility this season. Whether or not that ultimately turns out to be the case, these concerns are valid at this point in time. Suffice to say, UCLA fans are feeling low.
That's Cracker's 1993 hit single, "Low." Although the lyrics don't really quite fit, the title of the song, by itself, certainly fits the mood of most UCLA football fans going into the game this week. And it's one of my favorite tunes of the early 90s.
Let's move on to the guesses.
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With UCLA’s quarterback situation a big unknown going into this game, the first Pregame Guess is going to focus on UCLA’s ground game. Frankly, there is not a lot to be excited about here. The Bruins are tied for #122 (out of 128 teams) in rushing offense in the country. UCLA averages 99.2 yards on the ground per game. Conversely, the Cougars’ run defense is #22 in the country, allowing only 116.8 yards per game.
Last week, UCLA faced the #5 rushing defense in the nation at Arizona State and gained -1 yards. Ugh. There are, however, two facts that might give Bruin fans hope: (1) Bolu Olorunfunmi is back this week; and (2) although WSU only allows 116.8 yards per game, its average yards per rush (4.06) is a lot higher than some of the other teams ranked around them. This tells me that teams are throwing the ball more against the Cougars which, in part, helps their defensive ranking against the run. PREGAME GUESS #1: Predict UCLA’s total rushing yards against Washington State (remember sacks count as negative rushing yards in college football).
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On the other side of the ball, Wazzu is #9 in the nation in total offense, averaging 530.6 yards per game. As would be expected of a Mike Leach coached team, most of those yards come through the air. Washington State averages 381.4 yards per game passing, good for #2 in the nation. UCLA is pretty good against the pass, #28 in the nation allowing only 187.7 yards per game. There is almost a 200 yards difference there. Something has to give. PREGAME GUESS #2: How many yards will Washington State throw for against UCLA?
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IMO, UCLA will need to win the turnover battle to have a shot against Washington State. In short, Wazzou will need to "Coug it" for UCLA to steal one on the road in what are predicted to be wet and cold conditions. Turning over the football, however, is out of character for this Washington State team. The Cougars have only turned the ball over five times this season, tied for #9 in the country. All five were interceptions. WSU has not turned over the ball via fumble all season. Will that change with a slippery football? PREGAME GUESS #3: It’s a two parter. How many times will Washington State turn over the football and how many points will UCLA score as a direct result of those turnovers (i.e., either a turnover returned for a score or on the ensuing drive).
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And, last but not least, we have this week's Crowd's Line Prediction Widget.
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That’s it for this weeks Pregame Guesses. Choose wisely in the comment section below.