UCLA vs. BYU prediction and game preview. The Bruins and Cougars face off on Saturday in Provo, Utah.
UCLA vs. BYU Game Preview
When: Saturday, September 17 – 10:15 p.m. ET
Where: LaVell Edwards Stadium
TV Broadcast: ESPN2
If there was anything to expect from UCLA last weekend, it was for Jim Mora’s team to hang loose and get out all the frustration from its Week 1 overtime loss to Texas A&M, 31-24. The Bruins did just that against UNLV with a 42-21 victory. UCLA lit up the first half and went into halftime with a 28-14 lead. After the offense stalled in the third quarter, the Bruins closed out the game with 14 unanswered points.
BYU was not as fortunate this past weekend. In Week 1, the Cougars had lady luck on their side when freshman kicker Jake Oldroyd drilled a game-winning field goal to beat Arizona, 18-16. But on Saturday, BYU found itself on the opposite end of a nail-biting game when it fell to rival Utah, 20-19. UCLA leads the all-time series with BYU, 8-3, but the Cougars have won two of the past three matchups. Last year’s meeting ended in a 24-23 win for the Bruins.
What To Know About UCLA
What should you know? You should know that Josh Rosen is a bad, bad man. He completed 23-of-38 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown last week, but he’s due for a real breakout game to get the season rolling. We’re talking about a 6-foot-4, 210-pound quarterback with a big arm, deadly accuracy and a poised mindset. As a true freshman in 2015, he completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,669 yards and 23 touchdowns. His right-hand man is running back Soso Jamabo, who has already rushed for three touchdowns in two games.
Defensively, it seems as though Eddie Vanderdoes will be ready to go in spite of a knee injury. That’s important because he’s a huge part of the Bruins’ plan to stop the run and get penetration in the trenches. Defensive end Takkarist McKinley is suffering from a groin injury, and defensive end Deon Hollins has been limited by a concussion. A simple lack of bodies could hinder UCLA in this one.
What to Know About BYU
The Cougars will go as Taysom Hill goes. The veteran quarterback is the leader of the team, but he can’t afford to have as many mistakes as he made against the Utes. Utah picked off Hill three times last weekend and held him to 53.8 percent passing with 176 yards and zero touchdowns. At the same time, BYU has to find ways to spring running back Jamaal Williams. After a season opener with 162 rushing yards, Williams took 12 carries for 58 rushing yards against Utah, and he has yet to find the end zone.
On the other side of the ball, the Cougars got a big game out of Kai Nacua last week before he was ejected on a controversial targeting foul. He wound up with two interceptions and a fumble recovery, but will have to sit out the first half of the UCLA game, along with fellow defensive back Austin McChesney, who was also ejected for targeting. Nacua is BYU’s leader on defense, so the rest of the team will need to step up in his first-half absence. Logan Taele contributed two of BYU’s 5.5 sacks, and three separate Cougars forced fumbles.
Offense: UCLA – Rosen is younger and less experienced, but he’s the far better quarterback. With the true sophomore letting the ball fly, UCLA can rely on Jamabo to pace the offensive attack with his legs. The Bruins have the advantage.
Defense: BYU – UCLA is banged up right now, and the BYU defense played lights out last week. The Cougars are hungry for turnovers, so they get the nod, despite the first-half losses.
Special Teams: BYU – Both Austin Kent and Jonny Linehan are capable of getting some hang time and pinning teams down inside the 20-yard line. But Oldroyd was clutch against Arizona, and he was solid versus Utah, too. He’s the reason why BYU gets the edge.
Coaching: UCLA – Kalani Sitake is a talented head coach, but he’s also in his first year as the guy calling the shots. Jim Mora has been doing this for a while, and with guys like Tom Bradley and Kennedy Polamalu on his staff, it’s easy to see why the Bruins get the advantage here.
Matchup To Watch
Josh Rosen vs. BYU secondary
Rosen has started off in a mundane way for his standards. Sooner or later, you have to expect Mora will let him loose and he’ll really drive the ball down the field. BYU hasn’t faced a quarterback like Rosen yet, and it probably won’t again until the Cougars visit Brett Rypien and Boise State in October. If Rosen gets into a groove early, UCLA will win with ease.
UCLA vs. BYU Betting Odds
Spread: UCLA -3.5
UCLA vs. BYU Prediction
This is it. This is the game where Mora puts the game in Rosen’s hands and tells him to bring it home. UCLA will attack the sidelines early and heave the long ball. Jamabo will pick up chunks of yardage when given the rock, but Rosen is going to be the one orchestrating the scoring drives. He’ll strike twice in the first quarter and get the Bruins rolling early.
UCLA is hobbling defensively, and the Cougars will take advantage of that by setting up the play-action pass off some big runs by Williams. However, all of that will be negated by some lengthy drives by Rosen. He’ll control the clock. The Bruins will pick up a big win before taking on Stanford in Week 4.
UCLA vs. BYU Score Prediction: UCLA 36, BYU 24