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Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruins Host Cincinnati Bearcats

Who will start at quarterback for the Bruins? Can UCLA’s defense stop the run? Will the Bruins cover the spread?

NCAA Football: Cactus Bowl-Kansas State vs UCLA
UCLA’s Devon Modster
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Bruins Nation’s Pregame Guesses (“PGG”) is baaaaaack! And we are glad to have you!

Welcome to the first of twelve (hopefully, thirteen or even fourteen) PGG articles this 2018 UCLA Bruins Football season. If you are new to the article, here is a brief primer.

PGG allows fans to guess the answers to questions regarding the UCLA football match-up of the week. As has been the tradition dating back to before I authored this piece (this will be my 4th year doing so), PGG also mixes in a single song that, typically, has some sort of relevance to the game or UCLA football. Some weeks are more difficult than others to come up with a relevant song. So, sometimes I just pick something that I like (and hope you like). gbruin is STILL patiently waiting for me to pick a song from his favorite band, Alter Bridge.

So, we have a new Head Coach. Although I am excited for the season, I will admit, with Coach Kelly’s practices being closed to the public and extensively writing UCLA baseball articles during football Spring Practice, I am probably less up to speed on the 2018 squad than I’d like to be.

That having been said, I like what I see so far. Not so much the talent (I think that the Bruins’ two-deep released the other day shows some holes at certain positions), but more the way that the coaches have handled business since Chip Kelly arrived.

A good example is the suspensions handed down a few days ago. During Jim Mora’s last year, players would not play and no reason was given. I like the fact that Coach Kelly has put this information out there, making it public, amplifying the consequences to those affected, and, hopefully, changing the behavior at hand, whatever it may be.

The musical selection this week was tougher than usual. Maybe I am out of practice. One of my go-to methods is to pick a band from the city of the opponent. While this might work for U-Dub (Seattle) or either of the Bay Area schools, I could not find a band from Cincinnati that I liked enough for my purposes.

I am excited about the fact that college football is here. Woo Hoo! So, I picked a song that reflects that sentiment and excitement (plus a lot of “woo hoos”). As an added bonus, the song was released in April 1997, right before a stretch that saw UCLA win 20 out of 22 games and appear in two straight New Year’s Day Bowl games. It’s “Song 2,” by the British alternative rock band, Blur:

Woo hoo! Football season is here. Let’s get to the Guesses.

Originally, I planned to ask who the starting quarterback would be. That question is no longer relevant since UCLA announced that Wilton Speight will start tomorrow.

So, let’s try another twist on this position battle.

PREGAME GUESS #1: How long will Wilton Speight play against Cincinnati AND what will be his final stat line (passing attempts/passing completions/passing yardage/passingTDs/INTs/rushing attempts/rushing yardage/rushing TDs/ fumbles lost)? For bonus points, who will come in to replace him first, Modster or DTR?

UCLA’s run defense was abysmal last season, finishing last in rushing defense, allowing 287.4 rushing yards per game. The Bruins have brought in a new defensive coordinator, Jerry Azzinaro, who has replaced UCLA’s 4-3 defense with a 3-4 scheme. The problem is that, due to an injury to expected starter Josh Woods, the two-deep at the inside linebacker positions is inexperienced. Cincinnati finished dead last in total offense in the AAC last season, despite having two running backs, Gerrid Doaks and Michael Warren II, who averaged almost six yards per carry last season. This is a very, very interesting match-up.

PREGAME GUESS #2: Predict the total number of rushing yards that Cincinnati will gain against the Bruins.

UCLA is notorious for failing to cover the spread. Last year, for example, UCLA went 6-7 but was only 4-9 against the spread. This is not an anomaly as UCLA has had losing records against the spread every year since 2013, when the Bruins went 10-3 (but 9-4 against the spread).

UCLA started out as 20 point favorites over Cincinnati back in May, but the line quickly settled at UCLA -17. Now, with the above-referenced suspension of multiple players announced by Coach Kelly earlier in the week, I’ve seen anything from -14 to -16. Let’s split the baby and settle on a 15 point spread.

PREGAMES GUESS #3: Will UCLA cover the 15 point spread against Cincinnati?

That’s it for this week, Bruin fans. Submit your guesses in the comment section below.

Go Bruins! Beat the Bearcats!