Here is a look at the defensive position battles between UCLA and Utah.
Defensive Line: Tie
The Bruins will have the best defensive lineman on the field come Saturday. Laiatu Latu has been tremendous thus far, racking up four sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception to go along with seven tackles. Chip Kelly has called him one of the best pass-rushers he’s ever coached, and that’s not hyperbole.
For Utah, the front is nothing to scoff at. Jonah Elliss and Logan Fano have each tallied two sacks, and Keanu Tanuvasa has one of his own as well. While the Bruins will have the star, the Utes will have a balanced front that will make things tough for the UCLA offensive line all night long.
This is another battle where the stats tell one story, but the strength of the record must be taken into account. The Utah rush defense has been dominant in 2023, ranking 13th in the nation with just 67 yards allowed per game. While UCLA ranks sixth at just 59.5 per game, that’s come with big leads and against outmanned lines and runners.
The Utah pass defense did a lot of bending, but no breaking against Florida in the season opener, and it was a similar story against Baylor. They’ll give up plenty of yards to Dante Moore on Saturday, but finding the endzone will be a different challenge for the freshman. This secondary hasn’t been perfect through three games, but it’s been far more reliable than the Bruin secondary, which ranks just 82nd in the nation against the pass.
The Utes defensive backs even get in on the pass rush, with safety Cole Bishop having already recorded two sacks in 2023.