Unfortunately for Colorado, the schedule only gets more difficult from here on out. Still slogging on without the respite of a bye week, the team will rue the opportunities missed against Oregon and Arizona as they play UCLA, Stanford, USC, Washington State, and Utah the rest of the way - only five of the best teams in the Pac-12 this year. Bowl eligibility may be a silly fantasy at this point (they'd need to win three of those five, which... yeah, no), but that doesn't mean the season's over. A win or two against that slate would mean extensive momentum headed into 2016. Time for the Buffs to go hunting for some upsets!
Hype Music for the Week: "California Love" by 2Pac, feat. Dr. Dre.
What better song to call up for CU's one and only trip to Cali this season than this iconic collaboration. You got one of the great troll lines of all time "Out on bail fresh outta jail, California dreamin'" where Pac relishes in his recent release from prison, and one of the greatest beats of all time from the master, Dr Dre. Simply put, one of the best songs ever. Enjoy!
Kick off from the historic Rose Bowl is set for 1pm MT on Saturday. Shoutout to all the West Coast Buffs making the trip to Pasadena! Finally off the graveyard shift, all of BuffNation can bask in the sunshine of Southern California (thank God!). Television coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks. The radio call should be on 850 KOA, but you never can tell with those guys.
Click below for the preview...
When last we met -
On a picture-perfect Homecoming Saturday, 2014, the Buffs played one of their better games of the past year, pushing #25 UCLA to the brink. However, as has repeatedly been the case in the MacIntyre era, the heart and effort the team showed throughout the contest was not enough to overcome critical errors to edge them into the win column. As a result, the Bruins were allowed to escape Boulder with a 40-37 double-overtime victory they did not deserve.
|CU played well, but still ended up on the wrong side of the scoresheet. From: the BDC|
Still, in those even quarters clock management was a bothersome issue. At the close of the first half, DD Goodson (remember him?) failed to go forward out of bounds after a first down grab, allowing the clock to run unabated. The Buffs failed to recognize that the still draining seconds were an issue, and never managed to get a play off (let alone a spike of the ball). Instead, they drew a 10-second runoff (thanks to a false start penalty), voiding a should've-been 1st-and-goal situation. In the waning seconds of second half, the Buffs played conservative and for the tie on their final drive of regulation, yet still left more than enough time for UCLA to march down for a potentially game-winning field goal. Had CU not been bailed out by a holding penalty, there wouldn't have even been an overtime. In a tight ballgame, those management mistakes loomed large.
|So close, yet still so far away. From: the BDC|
And so we come to this. Colorado, on the road for a second consecutive week, looking for their first back-to-back road wins since the original Mac era, once again face off against a UCLA Bruins squad in the fringes of the top-25 who have shown a penchant for letting weaker teams frustrate them. If put into the same position again, will the Buffs still be so conservative with the football. History and #TheScript would shout a resounding 'yes,' but an ever emotional Mike MacIntyre might just finally give in to his demons and go for the jugular. If only the team can put him in another position to put his gumption to the test...
The Bruins in 2015 -
Their NCAA statistical profile can be found here.
Like so many 'good' teams this year, and really any year, the Bruins have proven to be a rather inconsistent bunch. They started out the season like they were shot out of a cannon, sweeping non-conference play, and earning what, at the time, appeared to be a huge 56-30 win in the desert over Arizona. At that point, they were solidly in the top-10, and had the inside track to a College Football Playoff berth.
Then, the wheels fell off. A surprising home loss to Arizona State, followed by a dismantling on national television at the hands of Stanford, had everyone with UCLA stock selling like it was Black Tuesday. A primary culprit in each: shaky QB play and penalties. The Bruins threw three picks and drew 16 flags over those back-to-back losses. You aren't going to get anything done against quality competition while shooting yourself in the foot like that. Overall, the Bruins are damn near the bottom of the national rankings for penalty yardage (113th, 75 per), and are under water for the season in the turnover department (-.14, 78th nationally), making you wonder just how composed this bunch really is.
|Uh oh, there goes that man again. From: WISN.com|
One of the biggest issues, and one that has nagged them throughout the season, has been injuries... big ones, too. They've effected all aspects of play, but have hit the hardest on defense. Headlining stars in the backfield (Fabian Moreau), linebacking corps (Myles Jack), and front line (Eddie Vanderdoes) each saw their seasons end early, leaving the Bruins short handed heading into conference play. All were All-Pac-12 caliber, and certain pro prospects; the anchors of a defense that was supposed to be one of the better groups in the league.
|The loss of Vanderdoes is massive. From: BleacherReport|
In the four games played since Jack completed the injury-trifecta, UCLA has been allowing 37 points per, after only giving up 14 per through their first three games of the season. Caveat for caliber of opponent applied (those injuries all occurred over non-conference play), but the numbers speak for themselves, as the Bruins have allowed about an extra 125 yards per contest in their absence. As a result, UCLA comes in as one of the weakest sides in the country against the run, allowing over 200 yards per game (104th nationally). They're a little better against the pass (top-35), but still prone to getting lit up. It won't be this week, but I'd keep my eye on that visit from Washington State in a few weeks, if I were you.
|The loss of a number of star players, like Jack, has really hurt on defense. From: BleacherReport|
Star Players -
Replacing a three year starter under center is never easy, and doing so with a freshman can often be a recipe for disaster. Not so, at least so far, for the Bruins, who are still enjoying life after the graduation of former Pac-12 super star Brett Hundley. They're able to do so thanks to the efforts of power frosh Josh Rosen. The #1 QB and #2 overall player in the 2015 recruiting class, as ranked by Rivals, has, mostly, lived up to the hype, earning the starting job in year one, and putting up impressive numbers despite the usual college 'distractions.' He stands at a proto-typical 6-4, 210, and seems destined for the NFL.
|Rosen is starting to come into his own. From: BruinsNation|
He's got a strong receiving corps to throw to, as well. They're headlined by the tandem of Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte, who have already combined for 1,035 yards and 10 scores on nearly 15 yards per catch each. They pose serious downfield threats, and stand as some of the best wideouts in the conference. Overall depth on the edge has been hurt by the recent injury to Devin Fuller, but the surprising play of redshirt sophomore Darren Andrews seems to make up for it. Between the quality both under center and out wide, this will be CU's toughest test in the secondary to-date.
|Payton leads a talented corps of receivers. From: DailyBruin.com|
Over on defense, the best of those who remain are still struggling to deal with injuries. Leading tackler Isaauko Savaiinaea is potentially out after hurting his leg against Cal, which only limits their linebacking corps further. Senior Aaron Wallace makes up for it, however, with his team-leading four sacks on the season. Along with sophomore Kenny Young, the pair brings enough talent to the table to keep this from turning into an outright linebacking disaster, like the one Arizona was dealing with a few weeks ago.
|Kenny Young is disruptive. From: CBS LA|
Finally, a special shoutout to senior placekicker John Christian Ka'iminoeauloameka'ikeokekumupa'a Fairbairn, better known as Ka'imi, who not only wins the all-time greatest name ever contest, but is also a pretty damn good kicker (41-42 on all kicks this fall, including a 60-yarder last week). If only he were a Stanford Cardinal, there'd be hope he'd get popular enough to earn the endowed-position-coach treatment, so that someone, til the end of time, would be the 'John Christian Ka'iminoeauloameka'ikeokekumupa'a Fairbairn Director of Special Teams.' But, alas, he chose UCLA. Opportunity missed.
Jim Mora returns for his fourth spin at the helm of the Good Ship UCLA, having become well-received in Los Angeles for leading the Bruins to 29 wins and three major bowl berths over his first three seasons. Those three seasons haven't been quiet, per se, but far more successful than their crosstown rivals, a rarity in the life of UCLA/USC football relations. It's no small note that the Bruins have won each of the last three meetings with the Trojans, after losing the previous five (four of those under Rick Neuheisel). In other words, barring something stupid (always an open possibility in the City of Angels), the man is entrenched on the Rose Bowl sideline.
|Jim Mora has gotten some good results out of UCLA the last few years. From: the LA Times.|
My 2015 record: 7-1. Against the spread: 5-2. Optimistic/pessimistic: CU +1.72 pts/gm
Line as of Wednesday @ 7pm - CU +22.5, O/U 64
That loss last season doubly hurts, as the return trip to the Rose Bowl this Saturday doesn't project to be nearly as *ahem* rosy for the Buffs as their near miss from last fall. The Bruins were a better football team last year, and the Buffs are capable of putting out a stronger product in 2015 than in 2014, but I just don't like the look of Colorado right now. They're still reeling from key injuries on both sides of the ball, and road trips against competent opponents have rarely ended in a positive fashion. Honestly, I'm thinking big loss.
I'll say the Buffs collect enough turnovers to make the Bruins think for a bit, but, without a developed rushing attack to lob body blows at the soft underbelly of UCLA (and keep the clock moving), this one will be well out of hand by the end of the 3rd quarter.
UCLA 47 - CU 17
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME WRONG, AND BEAT THE BRUINS!