For UCLA, it’s all about the veteran QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson. He’s starting for his fifth straight season and has improved in each and every one. He arrived as just an athlete with no feel for playing QB and looks significantly more comfortable running Chip Kelly’s offense than he ever has. UCLA has played an even softer schedule than Washington’s but so far he’s taking care of the football and is on track to match his best statistical season of his career (75% completion, 8 TDs, 8.4 YPA so far this year). But, his PFF grade (for whatever that is worth) is just 62 for passing. In prior seasons, DTR was fond of playing a little too much “hero ball”, launching passing downfield that had no chance at being caught. He’ll sometimes try to throw out of sacks or make poor decisions under duress, but ultimately is a fast and athletic quarterback who can escape pressure and make plays.
Perhaps UCLA’s best and most important player is RB Zach Charbonnet, whose taken his 43 rushes this season for 293 yards and 4 touchdowns. As a power back, he is a perfect compliment to DTR’s speed in the backfield. But even as a between the tackles runner, he has excellent feet and enough wiggle to be an explosive threat. The closest Husky comparison is like a more athletic Wayne Taulapapa. The other option at running back is the 5-9 Keegan Jones, a shiftier and speedier option than Charbonnet.
Catching passes primarily is the duo of WR Jake Bobo and WR Kazmeir Allen - the only receivers with a 70+ PFF grade. The 6-5 Bobo is a grad transfer from Duke and has played a ton of football, with 141 receptions in his career, but with only 4 touchdowns. He’s got strong hands, as well as quickness and fluidity in short areas, but he is not going to take the top off the defense. He is largely a short and intermediate threat (where DTR is most comfortable anyway), but does lead the team with a 14.7 average yards per catch. WR Kazmeir Allen on the other hand, is a different type of player at 5-9. He leads the team in receptions with 20, but only averages 7.6 yards per catch with one touchdown. He’s a speedster and a guy they want with the ball in his hands running downfield.
If hasn’t been made clear yet, this is an offense that wants to run the ball. Currently UCLA is almost exactly 50/50 in their run/pass play split, but earn significantly more yardage on the ground (220 per game, 16th nationally) than with their short and intermediate pass game. A lot of their plays are built off of zone read/RPO between DTR and Charbonnet, with the ability to pull the ball and make a quick pass. This offense will also feature a lot of pre-snap motion and movement and west coast concepts.
Similar to last season, Chip Kelly keeps a tight rotation on offense. Charbonnet and Jones have received 70% of the carries given to running backs this year, and it’s similar at the top of the WR rotation as well - Jake Bobo and Kazmeir Allen get the lions share of targets and receptions.
Due to DTR’s limitations as a deep passer and UCLA’s lack of deep threats outside, this is not an attack that is looking to stretch the field vertically. Their average depth of target for passes ranks near the bottom of the country, and they will throw many passes behind the line of scrimmage on flair type routes. Suffice it to say this offense does not ask the QB to make many difficult throws.
This game will be a challenge for Washington, facing a physical run team and mobile quarterback (AKA Husky kryptonite). UCLA has played a very easy schedule and probably should have lost to South Alabama. I expect Washington to play even more aggressive on defense than they have so far this year to sell out to stop the run and dare UCLA to beat them over the top. The way the secondary has played, I’m not sure I would give that dare, but UCLA likely has a worse downfield passing game than Kent State, Michigan State, and Stanford.
Pressuring DTR will be critical because he can be forced into mistakes and turnovers. When coverage is good downfield, he can and will scramble for a first down on a third/fourth down and long, which has been an issue for Washington this year. Perhaps it’s putting a spy on him all game, or playing more zone, but the UW defense simply has to get off the field to avoid getting pounded all game by Charbonnet.
How many points will UCLA score?
This poll is closed
36 or more