Colorado is, somehow, in worse shape than we are, here in Los Angeles, CA. They’re coming off an injury-riddled 3-10 season and haven’t had a winning season since, holy crap, 2005. (Relax, Bruins, our most recent winning season was in 2009 … *cries*.)
But, you’d argue, wouldn’t an injury-filled season produce a much better record the season after? Shouldn’t the Buffs bounce back with a vengeance, full-power?
Hell no, because this squad is losing a crap-load of “key” players from the year before. The entire season will hinge upon the talents of their very-solid 2012 recruiting class — ranked 29th in the nation according to Scout — and relying on true freshmen is never, ever a good thing.
They have Jon Embree, though, who is the Colorado equivalent of Rick Neuheisel: A coach whose dream job was to teach at his alma mater, brought in to change the culture and get a bad taste out of the mouth of the fan-base. Last year was the transition year Jon Embree received that Bruins fans gave Neuheisel back in 2008, the only time we stopped bitching about losing five or more games in one season. And things aren’t looking so good already for Embree.
But can UCLA stick to their “plan” and run out of Colorado with a win?
Colorado Offense vs. UCLA Defense
The Colorado offense, in 2011, sucked. The team was ranked a mediocre 57th in passing yards per game — despite the fact that their QB Tyler Hansen wasn’t so bad, with a TD-INT ratio of 1.8-to-1 and nearly 3000 yards passing — and the rushing offense was absolute garbage, ranked 108th in the nation. Their leading rusher, Rodney Stewart, carried the ball under 200 times for just over 850 yards, and though that’s not bad, it isn’t what you want out of your starting running back.
In 2012? It could get worse, for these Buffs. Hansen and Stewart are now gone, and so is their top receiver in 2011, Toney Clemons, who is now a Pittsburgh Steeler. The offensive line is losing some key pieces and all of a sudden, the team’s going to have to rely heavily on those young freshmen.
So, based on this, UCLA shouldn’t struggle to contain this squad. Our secondary, as we keep telling you, is razor thin. Much of our depth is heavily invested in the front seven, meaning we should be able to wreak havoc in the backfield against an inexperienced offensive line, and we should be able to stop a weak run game to make things easier on our corners and safeties.
But the Buffs’ new transfer from Texas, Connor Wood, could be pretty good. The team could gel immediately and all that talk of being inexperienced could surprise a few teams on their schedule and trudge on to having a middling Pac-12 offense. Jon Embree and company — side note: no one thought he put together a great coaching staff when he first came on board in 2011 — could adjust well to the Pac-12, and the team could cause some issues for teams that should beat them, such as UCLA.
That doesn’t seem to be the case, though. Until we start kicking off in late August, we’ll count this match-up as a huge advantage.
Colorado Defense vs. UCLA Offense
The CU defense is bad, too. Real bad.
(Off-topic: I hate doing previews on bad teams because although I come off as a pompous ass, I am fully aware that UCLA football has put up a shitty product for the better part of the past decade; so no ill-will, Colorado fans. We’re all in the same boat, chasing Utah for the Pac-12 South title from the bottom.)
The team was so bad that it ranked 109th — ONE. OH. NINE. — in points allowed per game, while also allowing 440 yards in total offense per game. Quarterbacks had their way with this team last year, too.
Of course, this side of the ball was far more injury-riddled than the offense was. There’s a chance this squad is healthier this time around, and if it is … well, they could still suck. There’s no real gauge as to how good the unit can be, despite the fact that they were torched — absolutely burned — last year through the air, and that includes UCLA. As we both know, UCLA’s passing offense in 2011 was piss-poor, and that’s being diplomatic to a degree.
This year, the UCLA offense should get better through the air with Noel Mazzone ditching the piss-toll for a spread offense that’ll highlight the versatility UCLA has at the receiver/tight-end positions while also having an elite running back in Johnathan Franklin.
We don’t know what’ll happen, because just as UCLA can finish either 4-8 or 9-3, Colorado could finish 1-11 or 6-6. For Colorado fans, UCLA is a swing game. For UCLA fans, Colorado is a “you better beat this team’s ass or else” game.
PREDICTION: UCLA 38, Colorado 14
UCLA must win here, because Colorado is, I’m sorry, at the bottom of the Pac-12.
So if things go according to plan, UCLA could finish 4-1 through the first five games. YAY FOR PLANZ.