This week, the UCLA Football (2-2) team happily returns to The Rose Bowl to face the Colorado Buffaloes (3-1), where they are not only undefeated but have outscored their opponents 101-67.
After four games this year, a few questions have been answered for the UCLA Football team while many remain unanswered. Yes, Josh Rosen has returned from last year’s season ending injury to play like a potential top NFL pick next year.
And…that’s about it as far as answered questions are concerned.
UCLA is still looking for a running game. Their current running back by committee has landed them 95th in the nation in rushing with 120 yards a game. That’s an improvement from last year but still nowhere near where they need to be.
Speaking of the running game, the Bruins’ defense is still searching for a way to stop it. After four games, they are giving up 307 yards on the ground a game this year. That’s worse than defensively inept teams such as San Jose State and Tulsa. As a result of this inability to stop the run, the Bruins’ defense spends over 34 minutes a game on the field (118th in FBS). Combine that with their lack of depth due to injuries, it’s no wonder the Bruins give up so many points.
So how will the Bruins fare this week against Colorado? Let’s examine that in this week’s edition of “3 Questions”.
1. Will the Bruins’ defense show up?
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UCLA is giving up 43.2 points a game. That’s worse than Texas Tech and Arizona State; two teams that usually come to mind when you think of teams that don’t play defense. Well, you can now add UCLA to that list.
But what is the cause of their defensive demise? It could be the injuries to their defense. I know every team deals with injuries but UCLA’s defense has been decimated by losing a number of key players such as Kenny Young, Boss Tagaloa, and now Jaelan Phillips to name a few.
Could it be the schemes new defensive coordinator Tom Bradley is running? Replacing Jeff Ulbrich, Bradley was supposed to bring a tough, Big 10 style defense he developed while at Penn State. But so far either the players don’t match defense or the defense doesn’t match the players.
Colorado isn’t lighting up the scoreboard, putting up just over 21 points against FBS teams this year (they did score 41 against Northern Colorado). But this Bruins’ defense has made their opponents look awfully good on offense so far.
2. Does UCLA just ditch the running game and go to a full-blown air raid offense?
I admit it. I like watching Texas Tech and Oklahoma State throw the ball all over the field. We already have a defense like Texas Tech (actually worse) so why not throw like them.
UCLA is getting close to it, cutting down their rushing attempts from 25 and 26 in their first two games, respectively, to just 15 attempts against Stanford.
The Bruins have a great quarterback and a nice core of receivers to speed things up offensively. I think it would be great to see Darren Andrews, Theo Howard, Jordan Lasley, Caleb Wilson, and Soso Jamabo line up as receivers and let Josh Rosen pick one out each play.
3. How many more losses until the Jim Mora Era is over?
I remember how excited I was when Mora was hired as the UCLA Football coach for the 2012 season. He was the guy we all wanted. He was going to turn around a Bruins’ program that just had two losing seasons in a row under Rick Neuheisel (another coach everyone also thought was going to save UCLA). But in the beginning, Mora did just that. He started off by putting together two winning seasons in a row. Something that hadn’t been done at UCLA since the 2005 and 2006 seasons. In fact, Mora had four winning seasons in a row that included two consecutive 10-win seasons.
Then he went 4-8 last year and has started a disappointing 2-2 this season. Although looking at their schedule before the season, with three tough opponents in four games to start with, I had the Bruins at either 3-1 or 2-2 at this point.
If not for the comeback against Texas A&M, Mora would be looking at a 1-3 record with at least four more losses on the schedule staring him in the face.
I don’t think Mora will be fired mid-season and we all know about his buyout clause that will make it very expensive to get rid of him in the next few years. But if the Bruins miss out on another bowl game this year, Mora may find himself as a lame duck coach next year.