As we get closer to the 2015 UCLA football season, Go Joe Bruin will continue to bring you previews in a variety of ways. Today we start previewing the 2015 schedule with the first game of the season against the Virginia Cavaliers.
In 2014, the Bruins had so much promise behind potential Heisman candidate Brett Hundley. With a questionably high ranking in the AP Top 25, UCLA football started their season in a tough situation, though for what the Bruin fans were hoping their team would achieve, every game in 2014 was going to be a tough situation.
UCLA started their season with a noon east coast game (9 a.m. PT) that saw them escape with a tough 28-20 win. When the Bruins get their season started this year against Virginia on Saturday, September 5 at the Rose Bowl, things should be different. And by different I mean a little easier.
Nov 8, 2014; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Virginia Cavaliers head coach Mike London before the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Head Coach: Mike London
2014 Record: 5-7 overall, 3-4 in the ACC
After starting out strong with a near upset of UCLA in 2014 and a win over ranked Louisville in Week 3, things went bad very quickly for Virginia. Towards the end of the season they lost five of their last six games with four losses occurring in a row. Though the Cavaliers are looking to get back to a winning season, it will be very hard to do in 2015 considering the personnel they lost since the end of last year.
The Virginia Offense
Part of the problem with Virginia last season was their instability at the quarterback position. Greyson Lambert had taken the majority of the snaps last year starting in all games he was in, but only played in nine. In that time, Lambert was unable to move the ball effectively. He finished with only 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the year.
Since the Cavaliers ended their season, Lambert has transferred which leaves the door open for last season’s back-up Matt Johns who had slightly better stats with 8 TDs and 5 INTs.
Oct 4, 2014; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers quarterback Matt Johns (15) throws the ball against the Pittsburgh Panthers in the fourth quarter at Scott Stadium. The Cavaliers won 24-19. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
If anything, Virginia should be able to move the ball behind an experienced offensive line that has a combined 68 starts (5th in the ACC). They will help both Johns and running back Taquan Mizzell try to improve off of last season’s offensive deficiencies, though that does not seem to be the biggest problem for the Cavaliers.
The Virginia Defense
The defense is what kept Virginia in so many games last season. If you remember the game against UCLA, Hundley and company had a tough time moving the ball with the Bruins only scoring one offensive touchdown in that game (the Bruin defense scored three in the second quarter).
That changes this season as the Cavaliers only return 4 starters on defense. The most crucial losses were four of their key players: Daquan Romero, Henry Coley, Max Valles as well as Eli Harold who left early and was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2015 NFL Draft.
That looks to be a problem when they face a UCLA offense that returns 9 starters including the most experienced O-line in college football as well as last season’s top Pac-12 rusher, Paul Perkins.
Virginia at UCLA Outlook
Sep 25, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; UCLA Bruins linebacker Myles Jack (30) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. UCLA defeated Arizona State 62-27. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Seeing as last season’s early start was a disadvantage to the Bruins, this year’s 12:30 p.m. PT start at the Rose Bowl could be a disadvantage for the Cavaliers. Why? It is going to be HOT!
An early September game in the Arroyo Seco with the sun blazing directly overhead is not how any team wants to start the season, but the Bruins have been here before.
Aside from the environmental advantage, UCLA has seemed to improve since last season as Virginia has struggled to do the same. Aside from the unknown about starting QB, which is between Jerry Neuheisel or Josh Rosen, UCLA football has experience on both sides of the ball.
The Bruin offense should be able to march down the field with relative ease while the Myles Jack-led defense should be able to slow down the Virginia offense.
Virginia 0 – UCLA 35