After opening up their PAC-12 season with an overtime loss to Oregon State, the Utah football team looks to bounce back against the #12 ranked team in the nation, the UCLA Bruins. The game will kick off at 8 o’clock at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and is scheduled to air on Fox Sports 1.
The Utes look to hand UCLA their first loss of the season. The Bruins have rolled over their three opponents so far, which includes the likes of Nevada, New Mexico St, and Nebraska who was ranked #23 at the time. They are led by their Heisman hopeful quarterback, Brett Hundley, who has amassed a total of 848 passing yards and 8 touchdowns in just three games. Hundley has been tearing defenses apart with his powerful and accurate arm, while also showing he can run the ball by rushing for 157 yards this season. The Utah secondary, which showed much improvement in the BYU game, will face a tough test Thursday night. They will have to keep up the good form they showed against BYU if they wish to keep the potent UCLA offense in check.
As well as boasting one of the best pass offenses in the country, they also have posted 284 rushing yards a game, which puts them at 13th in the country for this category. While it is apparent that the Utes have a size and strength advantage in the trenches, playmakers Trevor Reilly and Tenny Palepoi will have to step up in a big way to stop Jordon James and the rest of the Bruins rushing attack.
Travis Wilson has been turning some heads across the country, as he has put up fantastic numbers through the first four games of the season. Even against stout defenses such as Oregon State and BYU, Wilson has still managed to hurt teams through the air and on the ground. I expect Wilson to keep rolling in this game, but I think it will end up being the Utah rushing game that will determine how successful the offense is.
Time of possession will be crucial for Utah in this game, as the Bruin’s spread offense relies on rhythm to thrive. One easy way to increase the time of possession is to have an effective running game. Utah’s massive offensive line should be able to overpower the smaller defensive line of UCLA, so it will be up to James Poole to exploit this size advantage.
In the three seasons Utah has been part of the PAC-12, they have yet to make a statement against one of the top tier conference opponents. This is their chance to do just that. UCLA is one of the top teams in the PAC-12, which is arguably the best conference in the nation behind the all-powerful SEC. A win will validate Utah’s spot in the PAC-12 and will show the rest of the conference powerhouses that they better be put on upset alert when facing the Utes. A win also means the Utes will be 4-1 going into the Stanford game, another winnable home matchup. Although this game will be a tough matchup for the Utes, a win tomorrow night could prove to be the spark that ignites the rest of the season.