Pac 12

2010 College Football Preview: UCLA Bruins

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2009 Record: 7-6 (3-6 in Pac-10)
2009 Bowl: EagleBank Bowl (beat to Temple 30-21)
Final 2009 AP Ranking: Not Ranked
Head Coach: Mike Riley (11-14 at UCLA, 77-44 All-Time)
Non-Conference Schedule: at Kansas State (9/4), Houston (9/18), at Texas (9/25)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 22.0 points per game (9th in Pac-10)
Rushing Yards/Game: 114 (9th in Pac-10)
Passing Yards/Game: 222 (4th in Pac-10)
Total Yards/Game: 337 (8th in Pac-10)

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 21.2 points per game (3rd in Pac-10)
Rushing Yards/Game: 142 (8th in Pac-10)
Passing Yards/Game: 191 (2nd in Pac-10)
Total Yards/Game: 334 (3rd in Pac-10)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: +0.46 per game (1st in Pac-10)
Penalties: 54 yards per game (4th in Pac-10)

Returning Starters
Offense: 7
Defense: 5
Kicker/Punter: 2

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Kevin Prince, Soph (173 of 308 for 2050 yds, 8 TD, 8 INT, 186 ypg)
Rushing: RB Johnathan Franklin, Soph (126 carries for 566 yds, 5 TD, 4.4 ypc, 43 ypg)
Receiving: WR Nathan Rosario, Jr (42 rec, 723 yds, 2 TD, 3.5 rec/game, 17.2 ypc)
Receiving: WR Taylor Embree, Jr (45 rec, 608 yds, 2 TD, 2.5 rec/game, 13.5 ypc)
Tackles: LB Akeem Ayers, Jr (73); SS Tony Dye, Jr (73)
Sacks: LB Akeem Ayers, Jr (5)
Interceptions: FS Rahim Moore, Jr (10

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #56
Pre-Snap Read: #40
Sporting News: #46

2010 Pre-Season Pac-10 Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #8
Phil Steele: #8

Last year was a year of streaks for UCLA. They started off with three straight out of conference wins against San Diego State, Tennessee, and Kansas State. After that they promptly dropped their first 5 conference games and then won 3 before falling to USC in their Pac-10 finale. This year, UCLA's offense should be ready to break-out but they also face a tough out of conference schedule as they go to Kansas State and Texas and play Houston at home. We reached out to the pro-UCLA and anti-USC blog The Trojan-Haters Club to find out their thoughts on the 2010 UCLA Bruins.

What are the biggest strengths and biggest weaknesses of the Bruins this year?

Let’s start with the most obvious weakness – the Offensive Line. As it has been for a few years now, the depth, and level of experience, of the OL is still weak, even by Pac-10 standards. Due to a Mormon Mission, a career-ending injury, and an academic casualty, the Bruins are already down to what basically should have been their Second String Line. Partially to compensate for this glaring weakness, the Bruins are changing to a different style Offense, called the “Revolver,” which adds more misdirection and QB Keepers, to keep the Defense from being able to so easily exploit their control of the trenches.

This brings us to the Bruins’ STRENGTH – Unparalleled Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow. Despite two years of horrendous results (due to lack of talent), Chow is still nationally respected. He now has more athleticism at the skill positions, so the Bruins will score more than in the recent past, despite a particularly tough schedule this season. The treacherous schedule could actually be considered another “weakness.”

Having the Country’s Best Offensive Coordinator – who hasn’t gotten it done for the last two years – may not seem like much of a strength, but the next choice was going to be “Best Home Uniforms.” Actually, the other undeniable strength this year is the Kicking Game. Reigning Lou Groza winner Kai Forbath returns, and will re-write the Record Book at UCLA, and maybe at the NCAA as well. He led the Nation in Field Goals last year, and has made 37 straight inside 50 yards. Punter Jeff Locke, a Ray Guy nominee, and All-American Long Snapper Christian Yount round out the #1 Kicking Game in the Country.

Of course, if Chow’s Offense improves as expected, a lot of the Punts and Field Goals will be replaced by Touchdowns.

UCLA has an early game against Texas. What do you hope to learn about UCLA in this game and what do you view as a successful outing?

Hopefully, the Longhorns will have long forgotten the 66-3 thrashing from several years ago, and NOT return the favor. The Bruins will be playing in only their second road game, and fourth game of the season, with a new Offense. Hopefully, the Bruins will be able to overcome the superior physicality, and shorten the game with unpredictably innovative play-calling. If they are still in the game in the 4th quarter, they will be able to come home without hanging their heads. HOWEVER, a “successful outing” means a VICTORY. There is no such thing as a “successful loss” in a non-exhibition game.

What we will learn about UCLA is how they handle noise, pressure, and adversity. If the Bruins fall behind early, will they be able to switch away from a Rushing Offense, to air it out, in an attempt to come back? Or will the Coaching Staff stay conservative, and continue to shorten the game, just to avoid a 66-3-type game? And will the players run out of gas physically, in the Texas heat? And what about emotionally? Will they pack it in if they go down by three TD’s on the Road?

Besides playing Texas out of conference, UCLA also has games with Kansas State and Houston. How do you feel the Bruins match up with these teams?

Kansas State is the first game with the new Offense, and it’s on the Road. There are going to be bugs to work out of the system, and it might look ugly for a while. Houston is the third game of the year, and it’s at the Rose Bowl, where the Bruins perennially perform markedly better. The Revolver should be functional by then, and it will have to be, to keep up with Houston’s high-powered offense. UCLA is considered to be in the same ballpark as KSU and Houston in terms of overall talent, so it will come down to Execution, Motivation, and Home Field Advantage.

What team on the schedule do you want to beat the most?

Is this a trick question? Here at BeatSC.com, and in a vast majority of the Bruin World, BEATING U$C is ALL that matters. The trOJans are so arrogant, even in the face of their recently-received NCAA sanctions, that it is imperative for UCLA to win the annual battle of the crosstown rivals. The Bruins have only ONE archrival, and it is usc.

And now that the sleazy Lane Kiffin is the Head Coach, a lot of people around the Country – especially in Tennessee – will be rooting for the Bruins too.

By the way: At last check, usc still honors double-murderer O.J. Simpson with a giant jersey, in the Coliseum, and as far as the sanctions, they still insist that they did nothing wrong. Such low class and denial needs to be dealt with, on the field.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

Defensive End Datone Jones, who, this Season, should triple his last year Sack total of 4. Also, honorable mentions to D-Back Tony Dye, who has been solid but not spectacular; and Sean Westgate, who has made some huge heads-up plays, but will now be asked to fill a much bigger role.

Who is the best player on the team?

Does Kai Forbath count? In terms of being the Best at what he does, Forbath can’t be topped. But for those of you who don’t think Kickers are really Players, Akeem Ayers might be the Man. Ayers had 6 Sacks and made 75 tackles last season as a Sophomore, and became much talked-about, after making two super-athletic, leaping Interceptions.

The other choice would be Junior Safety Rahim Moore, who led the NCAA last Season with 10 Interceptions. That total was the highest in the Country IN SIX YEARS. Opposing Quarterbacks will be throwing AWAY from Moore all year. Hopefully, that won’t lead to a decline in his production, as it did for usc’s Taylor Mays.

I am not picking anyone from the Offense, as no one has truly PROVEN their greatness on the field, yet.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

The entire Offensive Line. The Bruins can’t score, hold onto the ball, or shorten games against superior opposition, if they can’t BLOCK. The Revolver is designed to maximize production based on not dominating the front line, but if the undermanned and outsized Bruin OL doesn’t know their assignments thoroughly, the Offense will not be able to sustain a drive.

If the OL steps up, then it will be up to Quarterback Kevin Prince. He will have to show unfailing leadership, as well as a mastery of the Revolver. He has some raw talent and is tough as nails, but it is his toughness that may be his curse. The Revolver is likely to see Prince running the ball a lot, and if he doesn’t learn how to AVOID a straight-on, bone-bruising hit, he won’t last the Season.

Who are the top newcomers that can make an impact this year?

The Bruins have several heralded Freshmen who are expected to contribute immediately, including three who probably envision themselves as the team’s leading rusher this year – Jordon James, Malcolm Jones, and Anthony Barr. But better bets to have immediate impact are two TRANSFERS – Wide Receiver Josh Smith from Colorado, and Tight End Joseph Fauria from Notre Dame. Smith, assuming his knee is healthy in the Fall, could be a game-breaker, as his Buffalo numbers suggest. In his seasons at CU, he had 52 Receptions, and big Return stats as well. Fauria is an imposing specimen, and an intelligent player, who has a history with Kevin Prince, and could turn out to be Prince’s favorite target this year.

Who is your pick to take the Pac-10 this year (you can't pick UCLA) and are there any teams flying under the radar that might be able to make a run at the Pac-10 championship?

One thing’s for sure – usc will not be representing the Conference in the Postseason this year. Even with all the defections, Lane Kiffin — a mediocre Head Coach at best — still has more talent on his roster than anyone else. But usc’s ban leaves Oregon in the driver’s seat to play in the Rose Bowl Game, even without dynamic stoner QB Jeremiah Masoli. The Ducks seemed like the Class of the Pac-10 last season.

If Oregon falters, or if much more of their roster gets arrested or suspended, that would leave the door open for Jim Harbaugh’s Stanford Cardinal, as well as for Washington and Oregon State.

Who is the one player on an opposing team that strikes the most fear in your heart?

The Huskies’ QB Jake Locker is a Cade McNown-type, who has a will to win, and can lift his team to victories against superior opponents. Stanford’s Quarterback Andrew Luck is also a difference-maker. Finally, the Rodgers Brothers are a one-two punch that will give the Beavers a damn good shot at the Pac-10 Title.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

Given the slightly tougher-than-usual schedule and the troubling personnel issues, a WINNING RECORD and a Bowl Victory is what I expect. It would constitute a decent Season, AS LONG AS ONE OF THE “W’s” IS AGAINST U$C. There is no such thing as a “successful” season, if it includes a loss to the hated rival. In 2005, the Bruins won 10 games but lost to sc, badly. That year is NOT a fond memory, overall. However, in ’06, the Bruins had a lackluster record, but BEAT $C 13-9, knocking them out of the BCS Title Game. Now THAT is a good year.

Previous Pac-10 Previews:
Arizona State Sun Devils 
California Golden Bears
Oregon Ducks
Oregon State Beavers
Stanford Cardinal
USC Trojans
Washington Huskies
Washington State Cougars

Next Up: Arizona Wildcats

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