Welcome to Bruins Nation’s fourth Pregame Guesses of the season. It is hard to believe that the season will be 1⁄3 of the way over after tomorrow night and, unfortunately, Bruin fans have not had much to cheer about thus far this season.
Many are re-evaluating the Chip Kelly hire. Many are questioning the wisdom of sticking with Dorian Thompson-Robinson, as Devon Modster, who won a pretty big game for the Bruins last season against Berkeley to get the Bruins bowl-eligible, transfers out of the program. Many are worried about recruiting for the class of 2019. Many think that UCLA football will be a lengthy rebuild. Bowl eligibility this season seems an impossible task.
There aren’t many positives vibes around the UCLA football program and fans are understandably agitated about the various issues plaguing UCLA football right now.
It does not figure to get any easier against the undefeated Buffaloes at altitude and on the road tomorrow night, as the UCLA Bruins take on the Colorado Buffaloes (3-0) under the Friday night lights at Folsom Field.
Or will it?
Although the Buffs are undefeated, the collective record of their opponents is 1-10. Conversely, the Bruins’ three opponents are a combined 8-1.
But once that thought gives you hope, you recall the fact that UCLA has not won a true road game in over two years. The Bruins are 0-11 since beating BYU on September 17, 2016.
In this column two weeks ago, I said “[i]t is high time to pay tribute to readers who consistently read this column and request different types of music than what I typically choose in this piece.” So 77 got some Doors two weeks ago. That theme continues this week.
It is has been a few years since BN legend, gbruin, stepped down from his co-editor position, although he is still a regular contributor, commenting on articles involving almost every UCLA sport. For those of you who have been around this community for a while, you will remember that his “Morning After” columns on Fall Sunday mornings after UCLA football games were always amazing reads.
Since I have been doing this column, gbruin has jokingly asked while making guesses in the comment section when I would select a song from his favorite hard rock band, Alter Bridge. So, since gbruin lives in Colorado and the Bruins are in Colorado, I thought that this would be the perfect time to give him control of the song choice this week.
gbruin gave me a few choices for some of his favorite Alter Bridge songs and I thought this one to be appropriate, especially the opening lyrics:
As your will is bent and broken
And every vision has been cast into the wind
As your courage crashes down before your eyes
Don’t lay down and die
I think that quote summarizes perfectly the thoughts and feelings of all UCLA football fans right now. Let’s hope the Bruins don’t lay down and die tomorrow night in Boulder.
A major issue that has been plaguing the UCLA football team this season is its performance on 3rd down on both offense and on defense. The Bruins are ranked #121 out of 129 teams in 3rd down conversion rate on offense, converting third downs to first downs an anemic 30% of the time. On the other side of the ball, the UCLA defense allows opponents to convert on third down 50% of the time, #125 out of 129 teams. Junior quarterback Steven Montez—who, by the way, is #5 in the nation in completion percentage at 73.4%—has to be licking his chops in anticipation of facing UCLA’s third down defense. Can UCLA do better on third down on both sides of the ball? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: This is a two parter: What will be UCLA’s third down conversion rate on offense? (FYI, Colorado’s opponents have only converted on third down 33.3% of the time so far this season, pretty close to UCLA’s conversion rate)). What will be Colorado’s third down conversion rate for its offense? (The Buffs convert on third down only 35.7% for the season so far).
Another major issue that UCLA needs to clean up is its red zone defense. Once opponents move into the red zone, they score 93.8% of the time, which is #115 out of 129 FBS schools. Luckily for the Bruins, Colorado has issues inside the red zone, scoring only 78.6% of the time, 98th in the NCAA among FBS schools. Can UCLA exploit this match-up and do better once the Buffs make it into the red zone? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: This one is a three-part question. How many times will Colorado make it into the red zone? Of those times, how many times will Colorado score a touchdown? How many times will the Buffs kick a field goal?
Dorian Thompson-Robinson has been a flash point for the UCLA football team in so many ways so far this season. The glimpses of brilliance. His inconsistency. His father’s remarks. Whether everything is his fault, or Chip’s fault....The fact of the matter is that he played his best game this season on the road at Oklahoma. Maybe a bye week off and another game on the road, away from the pressure, will be just what the doctor ordered. Colorado is a middle of the pack defense (70th in rushing D; 67th in passing D; 67th in total D). There might be an opportunity here. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: Predict Thompson-Robinson’s passing yards, rushing yards, and total number of touchdowns he scores through the air and with his legs.
BONUS GUESS: Who’s gonna win and by what score? You can vote with your heart or your mind. FYI, Vegas odds makers have the Bruins around -10.
Give it a shot and make your guesses in the comment section below. Or sound off on anything related to UCLA football. Thanks for reading and...