After UCLA’s “big” 49-25 win over Rice, people have begun to take notice of a different type of UCLA football team.
And as a result, UCLA doesn’t look so massively over-matched by Nebraska, our Bruins’ second opponent of the college football season.
There are quite a few reasons, too. Because while UCLA was pounding on Rice, Nebraska felt its season get a little bit rougher than they’d like.
First, they were dealt a massive blow when Heisman hopeful and Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead left with an MCL sprain:
Rex Burkhead made the most of his carries.
But the big concern among Husker fans now is the health of the senior running back, who left with an injury in the first quarter of Nebraska’s 49-20 win against Southern Mississippi on Saturday.
He watched the second half in street clothes, his left knee wrapped.
Burkhead is listed as day-to-day, so it’s possible that he suits up and starts against our Bruins. Of course, we’re not sure how healthy he’ll be, and since UCLA’s front seven looked solid against Rice (especially after Ellis McCarthy was subbed in at the nose tackle, and when Anthony Barr tore up the field with one hand), Burkhead will almost certainly need to be full strength to have a good game.
That’s not their only issue, though. They struggled out of the gates against a weak Southern Miss team that had a ton of turnover this past offseason, including the loss of head coach Larry Fedora (a coach that UCLA fans coveted for awhile).
Of course they, much like us, figured it out and routed Southern Miss in the end.
The point is, Nebraska is far from unbeatable and far from the automatic loss we chalked up for ourselves this offseason.
And sports books agree with us. UCLA are just six-point dogs to Nebraska, which means if UCLA were to upset the Huskers, it wouldn’t be such a big surprise.
Most notably, UCLA has to like its chances against a Cornhusker defense that has constantly struggled against dual-threat QBs in the past. If you forgot already — we know you haven’t — UCLA is starting QB Brett Hundley, who ran 72 yards on his first snap as a collegiate football player. Let’s not forget, though, that all the heavy-lifting was done by his arm; Hundley went 21-for-28, which culminated into 202 yards and two touchdowns.
And while the Nebraska defense can stop most running backs, Noel Mazzone’s offense can keep any offense off-balance, allowing for Johnathan Franklin to have a big day any given Saturday.
Meaning we shouldn’t worry so much about the UCLA offense, and instead, we should worry about our defense.
Because last week, Rice had no problems finding holes early in the game in UCLA’s secondary, where Rice QB Taylor McChargue was able to get a rhythm going before the Bruins adjusted and entirely shut down Rice’s offense after the half.
That might not be possible against Nebraska. The Bruins will have to face the tough task of playing Taylor Martinez, who is also a dual-threat QB but has made some major strides in becoming a better passer.
Last week? Martinez threw for 354 yards and five touchdowns against a listless Southern Miss defense.
What this game will come down to, it seems, is which team can put up big points faster? Both have above average offenses that can blow out opponents if given enough leeway.
Which is why we’ll set our predictions here high: UCLA will win this one 45-38, contrary to our earlier prediction that the Huskers would beat our Bruins 31-20. UCLA has the edge since they’re at home, and while Nebraska fans travel well, the Bruins were 5-1 at the Rose Bowl last season.
Let’s hope for a massive upset here to get the Mora era in Westwood toa strong start.