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Pick-Six: The Bruins’ Defense is Bad, but Colorado’s Offense Isn’t Great Either

UCLA has at least been very successful against teams not named Stanford, including Colorado

NCAA Football: Hawaii at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

This is the third installment of Pick-Six, a group of notes about UCLA football and its upcoming matchup.

1) I’m sorry, but I have to start with a statistic that shows just how poor the UCLA defense is.

Thus far, the Bruins are allowing 43.2 points a game and 524.8 yards per game. Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley’s corps has been one of the worst in the nation thus far, and the worst UCLA defense in the previous two decades.

The Bruins have never surrendered an average of more than 35 points in a season since 2000, nor have they allowed anywhere near to 500 yards across an entire year in that same time span. The next worst was in 2005, when UCLA yielded 34.2 and 468.1 yards per game.

Sure, the defense cannot be this bad across the rest of the season. It’s still one of the biggest, if not the biggest, issue on this team.

2) Without Sefo Liufau behind center, Colorado’s offense isn’t nearly as intimidating as it has been in previous seasons. So this may be the team UCLA needs to see to have a promising game defensively.

The Buffaloes have had just two seasons in which they averaged more than 30 points per game. One was last season, while the other was in 2001. They averaged 32.6 and 33 points per game, respectively.

Colorado has never been known for its offensive prowess. This year is much of the same. Sure, the team is averaging more than 400 yards per game, but it has played just one game against a legitimate team – Washington – in 2017.

With sophomore quarterback Steven Montez and a bunch of cupcake games in the nonconference season, the offense hasn’t proved that its an exceptional force to be reckoned with.

3) Did anyone predict that redshirt sophomore tight end Caleb Wilson would be this good?

Pro Football Focus released a list of players on an All-American watch list, and Wilson was one of the 12 players noted. Three other Pac-12 players were mentioned, including Stanford running back Bryce Love, USC wide receiver Deontay Burnett and Oregon lineman Tyrell Crosby.

Tight ends have never been a major part of UCLA’s offensive scheme, but Wilson has been one of Josh Rosen’s main targets all season. Thus far, he leads the nation’s tight ends in receptions and receiving yards at 32 and 425, respectively. Overall, he ranks 13th in the nation in receiving yards and sixth in receptions.

If he continues this torrid stretch, he will likely be in contention for the best tight end of the decade, as his numbers would look similar to or be even better than the nation’s top tight ends from the past few seasons.

Nation’s Top Tight Ends Since 2010

Year Name School Receptions Yards TDs
Year Name School Receptions Yards TDs
2017 Caleb Wilson UCLA 32 425 1
2016 Evan Engram Ole Miss 65 926 8
2015 Thomas Duarte UCLA 53 872 10
2014 Jonnu Smith FIU 61 710 8
2013 Jayce Amaro Texas Tech 106 1,352 7
2012 Zach Ertz Stanford 69 898 6
2011 Tyler Eifert Notre Dame 63 803 5
2010 Ladarius Green ULL 44 794 7

4) Last week was the Bryce Love show. The Stanford running back compiled the second-most rushing yards in school history with 267.

The Buffaloes don’t boast anyone as decorated as most rush-first programs, but Phillip Lindsay is still a respected player in the backfield. He’s also the biggest offensive weapon Colorado possesses.

The senior is sort of a late bloomer, not receiving a multitude of touches until last season. Even then, he still only accounted for 62.7 percent of the Buffaloes’ rushing yards last season, thanks to Liufau’s running ability.

But he’s averaging 111.5 yards on about 22.5 carries per game. He’s not going to amass as many yards as Bryce Love did, hopefully, but he should still provide a challenge for the defense, which has been focusing on tackling at practice all week.

5) One possibility to help UCLA’s defense is to keep it off the field.

With Rosen at quarterback, the offense has spent a similar amount of time per each drive. Granted, some drives will be pithy or never-ending for several reasons. But with the way that the Bruins’ defense is playing, coach Jim Mora may want to keep his offense on the field as long as possible.

The average drive this season has lasted about 1 minute and 48 seconds. In 2015, when Rosen played the entire season, the average was 2 minutes and 3 seconds. In the first six games last year, the average was 2 minutes and 18 seconds.

College football is generally more up-tempo than professional games, and it seems that Mora has committed to this play style, despite not having an imposing corps of running backs.

6) Since Paul Perkins left UCLA, the remaining running backs were primed to step forward and take the reigns of the position, and – no pun intended – run with it.

Mora is still searching for, and may always be searching for, a solid back that can garner a respectable amount of yards per carry. While the committee in the backfield has improved somewhat, it’s still nothing to boast about.

However, junior Soso Jamabo did eclipse the 100-yard point against Stanford. He’s the first Bruin to do so since Paul Perkins in 2014 against Washington State.

7) Extra Point!

UCLA hasn’t been very successful against Stanford in football over the past few decades. However, strangely enough, the Bruins thrive against whichever team they play in the following week.

While Colorado obviously isn’t as intimidating as a team as it might have been last year, this is one statistic that should give UCLA fans some hope.

The Bruins own a 54-27-6 record against whoever they played in the week following Stanford dating back to 1925. Yes, these programs have played against each other for quite a long time.

So, if you believe in this statistic, which doesn’t take into account the numerous factors involved, then UCLA has a great chance at a win on paper.