The clean up job at UCLA was bigger than Rick Neuheisel thought it would be but in his second year he was able to guide the Bruins to a bowl berth. He has even managed to beat Washington two years in a row. Say what you want about Rick but he usually gets the most out of his players on game day.
UCLA is similar to Washington...they are still rebuilding and need a couple more great recruiting classes to move back into serious title contention. The major difference between the two is the experience and talent that UW has built up at the skill positions on offense.
UCLA does not have a Jake Locker but they do have a guy named So Kevin Prince who was 173-of-308 for 2,050 yards, eight touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Those aren't great numbers but Prince seemed to improve every game and was strongest at the end of the season.
So Jonathan Franklin returns at RB after running 126 times for 566 yards and five touchdowns in 2009. High profile recruits Malcolm Jones and Jordon James will see early action and try to push Franklin out of his starting job.
The Bruins return their top two wide receivers, both of whom caught more than 40 passes a year ago. At split end, 6-5, 216-pound junior Nelson Rosario enjoyed a breakout season as a reserve, catching 42 balls for 723 yards and two touchdowns. The most consistent UCLA receiver is 6-3, 207-pound junior flanker Taylor Embree. He pulled down a team-high 45 balls for 608 yards and two touchdowns last season. Jr Cory Harkey will take over at TE.
The biggest problem the Bruins have had an offense the last two years has been the play up front. If UCLA wants to contend this year they need better play from the offensive line. Those hopes were dealt a serious blow when freshman All American tackle Xavier Su'a Filo decided to take two years off to complete his Mormon mission.
Jr OG Jeff Baca and Sr OG Eddie Williams return with Jr Kai Maiava anchoring the middle at center. Jr Mike Harris will be one of the starting tackles. Nik Abele and Micah Kia will fight it out for the other tackle position.
The UCLA defense is rebuilding after losing four starters to the NFL draft. Jr Datone Jones is the only returning defensive linemen. RS Keenan Graham is ticketed for a spot at DE. Sr David Carter will inherit a spot inside. High profile recruits Cassius Marsh and Owamagbe Odighizuwa have a shot at playing right away.
Jr Akeem Ayers will compete for all conference honors at LB. At 6-4 254 pounds he has the ability to dominate the middle. JR's Steve Sloan and Sean Westgate will line up beside him. Jr Glen Love who made the move from safety will see considerable playing time.Like most positions in the front seven UCLA will need some early contributions from the 2010 recruiting class to kick it up a notch.
UCLA has a ball hawking secondary led by Jr All America FS Rahim Moore who had 49 tackles, three tackles for loss, and 10 interceptions. Jr Tony Dye has the lead for the other safety position. At CB So Aaron Hester is a great cover corner. So Sheldon Price who started 11 games last season will start on the other side.
Washington vs UCLA
This is a late season game being played in Seattle and that never bodes well for California teams so advantage Washington. Offensively the Huskies have an advantage at all the skill positions going into the season. UW also has a veteran offensive line that has a lot of starting experience.
Washington has a decided edge up front on defense despite having to replace both starting DE's. The teams are pretty close at LB with neither having a real advantage and both having an all conference type player. UCLA has one of the better defensive backfields in college football but Washington is as solid back here as they have been in at least a decade.
If Jake Locker and his team are relatively healthy I predict Washington will win by a couple of TD's.