On Saturday, the Washington Huskies will play just their second home conference game of the season when the UCLA Bruins visit the shores of Montlake. Coached by Husky alumnus Jim Mora, ESPN’s Football Power Index gives UCLA an 8.7 percent chance of winning, while Vegas favors the Dawgs by 17.5 points. How do the UW Dawg Pound writers expect Saturday’s game to shake out?
Two weeks ago, in this very space, we were contemplating how the Huskies would do against a supposedly over-matched opponent — with an equivalent 17.5-point spread favoring Washington — and my fellow writers favored UW to win by 25, 26 and 28 points. (I picked the Huskies to win by three, but didn’t feel at all good about it. Should have gone with my gut.) As we all know, the Dawgs were embarrassed by the Sun Devils in Tempe, with the previously high-powered UW offense failing to get on the board until five minutes remained in the fourth quarter.
After what was likely the longest bye week of most of their careers, Washington’s players will kick off Saturday afternoon secure in the knowledge that their path to the Pac-12 championship game will be seriously imperiled by any further upset losses. What’s more, the taste of defeat — which has become a remarkably rare occurence these last two seasons under Chris Petersen — from their previous game is something from which this team will want to escape as soon as possible.
In UCLA, the Huskies will face one of college football’s preeminent quarterbacks in Josh Rosen, who this year leads the Pac-12 in passing at 8.3 yards per attempt, and has thrown for 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions. His top target Darren Andrews is himself a force to be reckoned with, having hauled in a league-leading eight touchdown catches on 49 completions. With the Huskies down two starting cornerbacks (assuming that Byron Murphy is not cleared to play), the Bruins will almost assuredly find some success in the passing game.
Where Washington can counter — and do so in a big way — is in the running game. Specifically, UCLA’s rushing defense is historically bad, as no Power Five program has yielded as many yards per game as the Bruins (303.4) since at least 2007. However, Washington needs to replace all-conference left tackle Trey Adams, who also suffered a season-ending injury against the Sun Devils. If the offensive line struggles to control the line of scrimmage they way they did in Tempe, it could be another long day for the Dawgs.
Ultimately, I don’t see that happening. Washington has too much to prove and will be playing with an edge after dropping their first game of the season two weeks ago, and UCLA’s defense simply can’t handle a Washington rushing attack with Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman playing at a high level behind a competent offensive line. Here’s hoping it doesn’t come down to a field goal. Washington 41, UCLA 21.
Josh Rosen against an ever-thinning UW secondary has me worried. An opponent that supposedly cannot play defense is a familiar tune.
Washington has to start this game well, running the football from the very first possession in an unrelenting assault on a UCLA defensive line that has had some injury problems. Defensively, if the Huskies can get to Rosen right away and hit him, get him trying to make plays that aren't there, the turnovers should come.
This should be quite a contrast in offensive play mixture. The Dawgs should be 70/30 run pass and UCLA just the opposite. If those numbers are accurate, its a good sign that the running game is working for UW and UCLA has abandoned any attempt to run the ball. The it's rush three, drop eight and still get pressure with Vea and Gaines chasing Rosen all day long.
I like Jake Browning to throw for half of what Rosen gets, but have a very efficient day in the passing game and get everyone involved.
UW 38, UCLA 20
In August, I circled this game as the big “upset” looming on UW’s schedule. My logic back then was built on a few premises. The first was that Josh Rosen is a really good QB. Not so much because he makes college plays, but because he has the physical attributes required to slice up the kind of college schemes that just don’t work in the NFL.
The second premise I had was that UCLA - which is stocked with highly rated talent just about everywhere - had runway for growth in the areas that dragged them down a year ago. Sosa Jamabo and Bolo Olorunfunmi made up a great rushing nucleus, the receivers were bringing up some bright talent and the O-Line was a year more mature. Defensively, UCLA didn’t seem to be losing much except for maybe along the defensive line.
However, UCLA has not lived up to the hype even if Rosen has bolstered his case as a possible #1 pick in the NFL draft. The rushing attack has gotten marginally better. But the o-line is a hot mess and the steps back on defense - in particular that defensive line - have been noticeable. S&P ranks UCLA as the 110th defense in the nation.
Unfortunately for UW, S&P also has UCLA as the #7 offense. This is going to present a challenge for UW given the fact that they are rolling out another new starter in the secondary and might be vulnerable to UCLA’s air attack.
When you net it out, UCLA scores 44.7 points a game while giving up 42. 8. Both of those numbers are insane. Therein lies the path for UW. If they can control UCLA’s rushing attack and force UCLA into a few turnovers, their efficient offense (#11 in the nation per S&P) should help contain the number of possessions that UCLA ultimately gets. The fewer possessions, the fewer points.
I like UW to bounce back, control at least part of UCLA’s offense and demonstrate that Chris Petersen after a BYE week knows how to get an offense back on track.