UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley began the 2014 season as one of the early favorites to win the Heisman Trophy, but after two narrow victories over less-talented teams, the Bruins, and Hundley, are looking to make a statement and prove they’re as good as their No. 12 ranking suggests.
That could spell trouble for the stumbling Texas Longhorns, who are coming off an embarrassing 41-7 home letdown to BYU. The Longhorns gave up 429 total offensive yards and coughed up four turnovers, including three lost fumbles.
The two squads will meet Saturday night at AT&T Stadium, in their seventh all-time matchup. Both sides have won three games, with Texas taking the last one 49-20 in Los Angeles back in 2011.
After a 20-for-33 performance for 242 yards and no touchdowns at Virginia, Hundley rebounded to throw three scores and complete 75 percent of his attempts for 396 yards, but the Bruins blew a 14-point lead against visiting Memphis in the 42-35 victory. Hundley’s 33-yard touchdown to receiver Thomas Duarte midway through the fourth quarter would seal the deal and keep UCLA’s playoff hopes alive.
Hundley can also take off from the pocket, rushing for one score against Virginia, and the Longhorns would like to forget their performance against BYU’s dual threat quarterback Taysom Hill. With the offense struggling, Texas’s defense managed to contain the Cougars in the first half, but Hill would rip off three blistering touchdown runs in the third quarter and totaled 99 rushing yards.
Turnovers crippled the Longhorns offense throughout the game. Receiver John Harris and running back Johnathan Gray committed two fumbles on consecutive drives in the second quarter, and with BYU already up 27-0 in the third, receiver Marcus Johnson fumbled his kick-off return.
It was the first career start for sophomore Tyrone Swoopes, filling in for the injured David Ash. Swoopes went 20-for-31 for 176 yards with one touchdown and one pick, an uneven performance but one he and Texas will have to build on. Ash has been ruled out indefinitely due to a concussion, and head coach Charlie Strong said earlier this week that Swoopes will be the team’s starter.
Strong will likely rely on running backs Malcolm Brown and Gray to carry the majority of the offensive load against a Bruins defense that’s looked shaky. UCLA’s allowing 142 rushing yards per game, and the squad is privy to mental mistakes, losing 172 yards off 21 penalties.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Longhorns, who still have a roster loaded with talent on the defensive side of the ball. Senior linebacker Jordan Hicks is one of five Longhorns to already record an interception in only two games, and they’ve been excellent on third down, holding opponents to a 9-for-31 conversion rate.
Start Time: 8 p.m. EST
TV Channel: FOX
Betting Odds: UCLA -8
Over/Under: 50 points
Prediction: UCLA 27, Texas 20