The UCLA Bruins (4-0, 1-0) will finally get their 2nd home game of the year this Saturday at 7 PM PST in the Rose Bowl as they take on the Utah Utes (3-1, 0-1) in a Pac-12 game.
The Utes are never going to be a team confused as an offensive juggernaught, they rank just 79th in the NCAA this season in yards per game (389.7). That number would rise a little if their game against Idaho State was taken into acount, but this website goes to the trouble of only counting FBS opponents. I feel as though that is a far more productive way to look at a a team's statistics.
The Utes are actually a little worse in yards per play, averaging just 5.1 per play (83rd in the NCAA, 10th in the Pac-12). They're 70th in 3rd down conversions at almost 39% (38.89%, 10th in the Pac-12 again ahead of only Oregon State and Washington).
The rushing game of the Utes is probably their strong suit, ranking 64th nationally in yards per rushing attempt with 4.1 (actually very close to UCLA at 53rd and 4.3 per attempt). The Utes are also one of the most run-heavy schools in the country (33rd nationally and 2nd in the Pac-12, rushing on almost 57% of their offensive snaps).
The Utes are still a team that has their carries dominated by mostly one running back in Devontae Booker, a transfer from American River College that grabbed the starting role in camp. Booker is a pretty normal sized RB at 5'11", 203 pounds. He and Bubba Poole (the Utes leading returning rusher from 2013 with 607 on 149 carries) had been splitting carries up until their last game against Washington State, but Booker got 24 carries in that game to Poole's 5 and Booker was effective in putting up 178 yards (7.4 per carry) to Poole's 9 (1.8 per carry).
Troy McCormick and backup QB Kendal Thompson also have more than 20 carries this season, but it appears that Booker has taken a hold on the job over the by-commitee approach. Actually it is similar to what has happened with the Bruins and Paul Perkins.
Starting QB Travis Wilson can also run a little bit, though he looks ridiculous doing so with his 6'7", 233 pound frame. If you just look at his numbers without context, he looks like he's put together a nice start to the season.
56-96 for 783 yards with 7 touchdowns to 0 interceptions. Pretty good, right?
In my opinion, the Utes passing offense has been sort of a mirage of effectiveness. The Utes are one of the worst teams in the Pac-12 in terms of completion percentage (just 54.26%, 99th nationally, 12th in the Pac-12), passing yards per game (just 212 yards per game, 88th nationally and 11th in the Pac-12), and yards per attempt (6.8 yards per attempt, 74th nationally and 9th in the Pac-12).
They live off of the big play (3 30+ yards passing plays vs. Idaho State, 4 vs. Fresno State, 1 vs. Michigan with a 29-yard TD reception as well) and lots of long punt returns to set up amazing field position.
The only game they had without multiple explosive plays (last week against Wazzu) in the passing game, they lost.
Kenneth Scott (6'3", 208), Dres Anderson (6'2", 190), Kaelin Clay (5'10", 193), Tim Patrick (6'5". 190), TE Westlee Tonga (6'4", 244) and even Poole and Booker out of the backfield can all make big plays downfield.
Luckily, the one thing that UCLA's defense has been great at under Jim Mora is limiting explosive plays. I don't think that Travis Wilson is capable of dinking and dunking his way downfield consistently against the Bruins, so as long as the Bruins hold down the Utes big play ability, this contest should favor the UCLA defense as much as any game so far this season.
The Utes offensive line is pretty much your typical Utah OL, big dudes that aren't overly athletic but do a decent job protecting the QB and leaning on people to create some running lanes. The starters from the Washington State game were Jeremiah Poutasi (6'6", 330), Junior Salt (6'2", 315), Siaosi Alano (6'2", 305), Isaac Asiata (6'4", 316) and JJ Dielman (6'5", 290). Utah's middle of the road in sacks allowed (62nd at 2 per game).
Until next time, Go Bruins!