UCLA began the 2014 college football season with high expectations, ranking No.7 in the AP Top 25 Poll with hopes of competing for a national championship. Even though the Bruins are undefeated after their first two games, the team needs to make a statement on Saturday when they visit Texas.
Following wins over Virginia and Memphis, the Bruins have fallen five spots in the rankings. Neither opponent is ranked in the AP Top 25 or the USA Today Coaches Poll, and UCLA barely escaped the two contests with victories, winning by one score each time.
In the season opener, Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley didn’t look like one of the best players in the country. The quarterback completed 20 of 33 passes for 242 yards, and failed to throw for a score. He did add a rushing touchdown, but the player who totaled 748 yards on the ground in 2013 needed 15 rushes to get 39 yards against the Cavaliers.
While Hundley’s performance improved against Memphis, UCLA’s defense faltered. The Bruins surrendered 469 yards of total offense, including 305 yards in the air.
As UCLA looks to put together its first complete effort of 2014, Texas might be an ideal opponent. The Longhorns are 1-1, coming off a 41-7 loss at home to BYU. In the team’s first season under new head coach Charlie Strong, they haven’t gotten off to the most ideal start.
After beating North Texas by 31 points in the opener, Texas learned it would be without starting quarterback David Ash, who is suffering from concussion symptoms. Tyrone Swoopes can present problems for opponents because of his ability to run, but the backup hasn’t looked ready to take over the starting role. Against BYU, his 31 pass attempts netted just 176 yards and he only totaled seven yards on the ground.
Swoopes might not have his full complement of weapons because wide receiver Jaxon Shipley is questionable with a head injury. Wide receiver Daje Johnson and safety Josh Turner will miss the game with suspensions.
The betting odds at Las Vegas casinos favor No.12 UCLA. They are listed as 7.5-point favorites, and will try to cover their first point spread of the season. The over/under is 50.5 total points.
Prediction: UCLA hasn’t looked like a team that will win the Pac-12 Championship and make compete in the College Football Playoff, but they could be in line for their first big win against Texas. Playing in Texas didn’t help the Longhorns against BYU, and it might not do much against the Bruins. UCLA’s defense has looked vulnerable, but Swoopes showed little indication that he can move the ball consistently against a top 15 team in the country.
Predicted Score: UCLA 34, Texas 20