The college football offseason is in full swing, which means that very little is going on, but today a newsworthy story broke that should get UCLA fans pumped for 2013.
UCLA will open its campaign on Aug. 31 at the Rose Bowl against Nevada as a 13-point favorite. This isn’t too surprising, as the Bruins are expected to contend for a Pac-12 title in 2013, but it’s interesting to see how Vegas views their chances.
The Wolfpack finished the 2012 season with a 7-6 record, including a season-opening shocker at Memorial Stadium over the California Golden Bears. Had it not been for an epic collapse in the New Mexico Bowl versus Arizona, Nevada would have finished with an 8-5 mark. But when you give up two touchdowns within the last 46 seconds, you probably don’t deserve a bowl victory anyway.
As we know, the Bruins posted a 9-5 overall record in Jim Mora‘s first season, but they finished the year on a three-game losing streak. Granted, two of those games were against the consensus Top 5 Stanford Cardinal, but a 49-26 loss to unranked Baylor in the Holiday Bowl was a tough pill to swallow.
In terms of common opponents, UCLA and Nevada both faced Cal and Arizona, each going 1-1 against those teams. Unlike the Wolfpack, the Bruins couldn’t muster a win up in Berkeley (and actually got spanked 43-17), but they did take care of the Arizona Wildcats by a score of 66-10 in Pasadena. And though those teams are different from the ones that’ll face off in August, it still provides a bit of a measuring stick for the upcoming battle.
UCLA loses a lot from last year’s squad, most notably all-time leading rusher Johnathan Franklin, so the roster is somewhat unsettled at this point. But the return of QB Brett Hundley and a stacked front seven headlined by LB Anthony Barr has most pundits predicting a step forward next season.
For Nevada, the 2013 season could also be marked by forward progress. Aside from losing a myriad of defenders and some of their top receivers to graduation, the Wolfpack return starting QB Cody Fajardo, who should have an impressive year. Fajardo had a strong sophomore season, tossing for over 2,700 yards and 20 TDS with only nine interceptions, and will only be better with a year of starting under his belt. UNR does lose a major piece in leading rusher Stefphon Jefferson, who was nearly unstoppable en route to an 1,800 yard, 24 TD season that saw him finish second in the nation in rushing.
Though UCLA is only listed as a two-touchdown favorite, the Bruin faithful would love to see a much bigger margin of victory to kick off Mora’s second season. If Nevada beats the spread (or dare I say beats the Bruins), it wouldn’t bode well for a UCLA schedule that also includes games at Nebraska, Stanford, Oregon and Southern Cal. Here’s to hoping the home team cruises to an easy win and proves that the oddsmakers undersold them.
Check back to Go Joe Bruin for more UCLA football news as the season approaches, and get excited for another season cheering on your Bruins!