Gabey Lucas (2-2 ATS, 4-0 SU)
I think this will be the hardest game so far for Washington primarily for two reasons: Laiatu Latu and DTR. That being said, I still trust Washington more to pull this off than I would UCLA, primarily because UCLA under Chip Kelly is similar to UCLA under Jim Mora in that, if you ever enter the season going “Ya know, things look favorable for UCLA this year, this could be the season they take that next step” you will invariably be disappointed. This is UCLA, dammit, and their ceiling is their coach, and their coach is Chip Kelly/Jim Mora/Rick Neuheisel/Karl Dore-eww god forgot about that era. Point being, they don’t have a coach who I’d trust to lead them towards that next step, and they haven’t for a long time.
I don’t say that to gloat or be cocky, it’s just that I’ve learned to cap my preseason expectations for UCLA a long time ago until they hire a coach who can make them not just great, but consistent.
Also, my gut is that DTR will be the most difficult quarterback Washington’s faced so far other than maybe Colin (Colin? Yeah, let’s go with Colin I think that’s right) Schlee from Kent State, but he also hasn’t really evolved past making those errors you expect experienced quarterbacks to avoid. Because of that, I feel like this game will be one where both Washington fans and UCLA fans find themselves going “Gaaah DTR!” in exasperation a handful of times. He’ll escape some would-be sacks, annoyingly get some third downs converted, but also do some silly things.
Lastly, I think UCLA’s pass rush — particularly former Husky Laiatu Latu — will be the offensive line’s biggest challenge yet. I think this is especially true if Jaxson Kirkland starts at left tackle instead of Troy Fautanu, who in my opinion is better-suited with his lower center of gravity, stronger base, and quicker feet to take on someone as adept as Latu. If UCLA pulls off the upset, it will be because they’re able to put pressure on Michael Penix beyond what we’ve seen so far.
Still, I trust Penix and DeBoer and most of Washington’s units more than I trust DTR and Kelly, so I’m going Dawgs.
Washington- 44, UCLA- 34
Jeff Gorman (0-1 ATS, 1-0 SU)
When Washington has the ball, expect them to do what they’ve done all season: throw it aggressively downfield. If UW is able to build a lead and force UCLA to pass, that should play right into Washington’s hands. UCLA relies very heavily on the duo of Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Zach Chabonnet - who power a strong run game - but they haven’t faced a team that can hold up against the run. Washington may struggle to run the ball, but the UCLA secondary has not looked great and I think Ryan Grubb is just fine with that.
Washington has struggled historically in the Rose Bowl, and much better UW teams have been taken down by UCLA. It’s a short week, class just started, and it’s a night game. I might be way too optimistic, but I’m riding with Penix and the receiver trio of Odunze, Polk, and McMillan to score enough early where UCLA comes up just short.
Washington- 31, UCLA- 30
Andrew Berg (2-2 ATS, 3-1 SU)
Is it possible to go 4-0 and lose momentum? It seems like UCLA has done just that. Chip Kelly’s team had some positive vibes in the pre-season- they were 4th in the Pac-12 media poll (UW was picked 6th), received votes in the AP poll, and checked in 29th in the preseason 1-131 ranking at On3 (UW was 50th). The early schedule has been laughably soft- Bowling Green, Alabama State, South Alabama, and Colorado. The Bruins could have sleep-walked to 4-0, but it took a walk-off FG against the Jaguars to maintain a perfect record. If you’re not sure which opponent of the four is the Jaguars, that proves my point.
Despite remaining unblemished through 1/3 of the schedule, the momentum has flipped in UW’s favor. While Michigan State and Stanford might not be national powerhouses when we close the book on 2022, they’re both worthy adversaries and UW had no problem with either one. The Dawgs have also passed the eye test with flying colors. Kalen Deboer and Michael Penix have combined to create an aesthetically pleasing pass offense in which at least four different receivers can take over a game. RB Wayne Taulapapa’s career-best outing against Stanford showed that the ground game can do its part when defenses start dropping more players into coverage. UCLA’s defense has never been a plus under Kelly. New DC Brian McGovern is still largely unproven and this matchup will be a litmus test for how much progress the unit has made. Through four games, the Dawgs have tallied 39+ every time out and it’s hard to imagine UCLA as the team to reverse that trend unless the short week or the road trip have an outsized impact.
Instead, this game will turn on how well UW can bottle up the dynamic offensive combination of Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Zach Charbonnet. They provide such a potent run threat that they have made the passing game easier than ever for DTR. Is that progress real or the product of weak competition? UW showed last week that its pass defense relies more on pressure than coverage. The Dawgs will not sack DTR eight times and rushing him the way they rushed Tanner McKee last week is a recipe for scrambling yardage. UW needs to continue to pressure DTR without creating big running lanes for him, cover better downfield, and tackle runners in space when they get the chance. In short, the defense has to execute better than it has all year to make this game comfortable.
In the end, there’s a good reason the Dawgs have leapfrogged the Bruins in the polls and public sentiment. While both teams have won, UW has done it more impressively and against better teams. This game will not be a walkover, and defensive lapses could swing things in UCLA’s favor. But I believe the most likely scenario is a high-scoring affair where UW’s defense makes just enough plays to sustain the offense.
Washington- 42, UCLA- 37
Max Vrooman (1-3 ATS, 4-0 SU)
In some ways this feels a bit like the Michigan State game. The Spartans were coming off a pair of games in which they shellacked Western Michigan and Akron but had yet to play a top-50 opponent. We’re a bit later in the year now but UCLA has a similarly soft schedule even if we may feel we know more about the Huskies. In 3 games against bottom feeders Bowling Green, Alabama State, and Colorado UCLA scored exactly 45 points and either gave up 7 or 17.
Of course the closest they’ve played to a real opponent is South Alabama who is all the way up to 64th in SP+. And the Jaguars were a last second field goal away from knocking off the Bruins.
Even if UCLA isn’t as good as your average 4-0 team they certainly have enough offensive talent to potentially keep up with the Husky offense. Dorian Thompson-Robinson isn’t going to end up being a high NFL draft pick but he’s still an above average college QB. Washington’s pass rush has struggled with mobile quarterbacks and they they don’t come much more mobile than DTR. It wouldn’t shock me if he finished with 100 rushing yards on Friday night and if UW keeps him to under 50 then they’ll have done a good job.
The other end of that rushing duo is former Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet who has only averaged a little over 10 carries per game so far but has earned 7 yards per carry and better than 4 yards per carry after contact. He’s the best back the Huskies will have faced so far this season and it will be a group effort to keep him from getting a stat line like last year’s 21 carries for 131 yards.
The biggest question marks with UCLA are the blocking and the defense (as if either of those matter). The Bruins’ pass rush has been dominant times led by former Husky Laiatu Latu’s 5 sacks but given the level of competition there are still reasons to doubt. Given how well Washington has pass protected this year (0 sacks allowed with Penix at QB) this looks to be the biggest strength on strength matchup in the game.
Beyond that though the secondary for the Bruins has had real issues at times and Washington looks perfectly positioned to exploit that weakness. If Penix is given time he should be able to pick them apart. Meanwhile, DTR has been pressured on almost a quarter of his dropbacks so UW’s edges should be able to get close. The question is whether they can catch him.
This is a short week and also the first road game for this team even if the Rose Bowl when playing UCLA isn’t a very intimidating venue. We’ve yet to see how Washington will react if another team is able to punch them in the mouth early and I have a bad nagging feeling about this game. For the first time this year I’m picking against the Dawgs. But I view this as a toss-up.
Washington- 33, UCLA- 35