This game is for all the marbles.
Since the beginning of the season we’ve all had this game circled and knew how important this game would be for UCLA’s Pac-12 title hopes. But, in the past weeks this game has taken on a whole new meaning. A loss here means the end of UCLA’s Pac-12 south division hopes; a win means they gain ground in the race and still are within striking distance. The Bruins currently sit at fifth in the south division with a 1-3 conference record and a 3-4 overall record. Last week’s loss to Washington State was not pretty but for a team without their star quarterback in a hostile environment it was impressive. But, Jim Mora and company will have to move past that game as they face south division favorite, No. 19 Utah.
The conversation around this game will again begin and end with the health of Josh Rosen. Mora said that last week Rosen nearly played so the assumption would be that he will be ready to go this week. Mora said in an article posted by the LA Times, that he was “Hopeful” that Rosen would go this week. This is probably some gamesmanship to keep the Utes on their toes. However, If Rosen doesn’t start this week then it will come as a shock to me and all hope should be considered lost if this is the case. But going forward, let’s assume that our chose Rosen will be ready to play. Rosen’s return will not fix the main issue that the UCLA offense faces, the anemic play of their offensive line. UCLA’s offensive line has given up 13 sacks on the year and has lead to the Bruins having one of the worst rushing attacks in the nation. The public has been clammering for Adrian Klemm, the run game coordinator and offensive line coach, to be fired for the performance of the line so far. The success of the Bruins offense will rest on the line and Rosen’s ability to get rid of the football quickly.
The one consistent thing that UCLA has been able to hang their hat on this season has been the amazing performance of the defense thus far. Last week, they were able to hold Washington State to a season-low 27 points. This was the main reason that the Bruins were able to keep the game close and they need the defense to show up again this week. Utah’s offense has not been impressive this season; especially last week as they escaped with a 19-14 win at Oregon State. This game will become a low scoring affair and that is exactly what UCLA should want. The combination of their poor offensive line and no running game will force UCLA to rely solely on Rosen and the passing game for their offense.
This game will not be the most entertaining game to watch but it is what I call a “Kitchen Sink Game”. Meaning that Jim Mora and the entire coaching staff will throw everything they have at the Utes to try and get a win here. A loss here means that the UCLA season will be officially a disaster. On the other hand, a win gives the team and fanbase hope for a remarkable comeback. My prediction for this game is that UCLA will come out with a close win on a last second field goal. The score will end up being 24-21 in a defensive battle.