As the UCLA Bruins football team (0-3) continues to underperform under Head Coach Chip Kelly, this column is getting harder and harder to write. I want to be positive and upbeat but the optimism is at its lowest point in a long, long time right now.
Anyhoo, two teams will play football on Saturday night at Martin Stadium, in Pullman, Washington. The Washington State Cougars will host UCLA. These are two teams headed in different directions. To determine why, we have to go all the way back to 2011.
Both UCLA and WSU were looking for head coaches. Many on this site thought that UCLA should go with the quirky, unconventional candidate in Mike Leach. He was instead hired by Washington State and has been there ever since, now entering his 8th season. After a couple of tough years, WSU is hitting its stride and has won at least eight games each season since 2015.
UCLA, on the other hand, hired Jim L. Mora. The Bruins enjoyed a couple of good years with Rick Neuheisel’s recruits and then things started going sour, resulting in Mora’s firing and Kelly’s hiring. We all know how Kelly’s UCLA teams have fared so far. 3-12 says enough.
You could say that, when it comes to the UCLA and Wazzou football programs, the teams are going their separate ways. And so, today, I present you with Journey’s “Separate Ways”:
I was never a huge Journey fan in the ‘80s (I know, sacrilege!) and this video is the epitome of 80s cheese, but the song grew on me over time and it certainly fits the bill today.
Onto the guesses . . .
Last week, UCLA played the team with the best total offense in the nation, the Oklahoma Sooners. UCLA was gashed for 48 points. This week, it plays the team with the 6th best total offense in the nation. On enemy turf. Much of that offense comes from senior quarterback Anthony Gordon, who has the most passing yards in the country (1,324) and is tied for most touchdown passes (12). Gordon’s average (vs. New Mexico State, Northern Colorado, and Houston, mind you) is 441 passing yards per game and 4 touchdowns for game. PGG #1 is a two-parter. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: I am setting the line for Gordon’s passing yards versus UCLA at 441. Do you take the over or the under? I am also setting the line for Gordon’s passing touchdowns versus UCLA at four. Do you take the over or the under?
Wazzou is killing it on turnover differential. Through three games, the Cougs have seven fumble recoveries and two interceptions, for a total of nine takeaways. They have only turned the ball over twice, both interceptions, for a turnover differential of plus seven (or +2.33 in their favor per game). That’s tied with Alabama for second best in the country.
UCLA, on the other hand, is clear at the other end of the list (another reason for the song, “Separate Ways’). The Bruins have an interception and a fumble recovery, for a total of two takeaways. The have turned it over eight times, with four fumbles and four interceptions. That is a turnover differential of minus six (or -2.00 against them per game).
The numbers do not look good but turnovers can be a fickle thing. PGG #2 is also a two-parter. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: How many turnovers will WSU lose? How many turnovers will UCLA lose?
Is having a good punter a positive? Of course it is! After all, “punting is winning.” I’ve been searching high and low for a positive PGG but the best I can find is our Australian Rules Football-style senior kicker, Wade Lees. Lees is tied for 32nd in the nation with a 44 yard punting average. He has punted a total of 15 times, an average of 5 times per game. WSU’s total defense is middle of the pack, at 51st in the nation. Will the Bruins be doing a lot of punting on Saturday? This will be the third and final two-part PGG this week. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: How many times will Lees punt versus Washington State. What will be his punting average?
No bonus attendance guess this week since we are away from the Rose Bowl. So that’s it for Week 4 of the 2019 version of Pregame Guesses. Guess away in the comment section or let us know any other thoughts you have on the game.