One of the most anticipated UCLA football seasons starts in a very unfamiliar place. The Bruins travel to College Station to face Texas A&M in a rare Pac-12, SEC showdown. In the past four seasons, the Pac-12 is a combined 1-4 against the vaunted SEC. Both of these programs are trending in the opposite directions. UCLA is coming into the season with little, if any, off the field issues and high expectations. A&M has had several issues including a sexist power point presentation by some of the coaching staff, a wide receiver coach tweeting and causing recruits to decommit and several quarterbacks transferring away from the program.
This is the most favorable match-up for the Bruins in the entire SEC. Former UCLA offensive coordinator, Noel Mazzone, was hired by A&M this past offseason after his four years with UCLA at the same position. The UCLA defense should be very well prepared for what Mazzone will throw at them. Four years of playing against Mazzone’s offense should allow the defense to be accustomed to the amount of plays run in a small amount of time. There are two things that the Bruins’ defense cannot prepared for, SEC speed and size. Texas A&M is one of the fastest team in the entire SEC and it will create problems on both sides of the ball. A&M also has one of the best pass rushers in the nation, Myles Garrett, who will aim to make Josh Rosen’s life hell for the entire game. Worst of all, the game is in College Station, with a new offensive line, a new playbook and one of the rowdiest crowds in the nation.
Now that we got all the bad out of the way let’s look at what UCLA has going for it. Texas A&M’s offseason has been turbulent for all the reasons stated above. Talks have arisen that Kevin Sumlin could be on the hot seat this season and the post Johnny Manziel era has been rough for program. There hasn’t been a quarterback that could even come close to following Manziel’s footsteps. Kenny (Trill) Hill had his moment in the sun but now he’s playing for TCU. Next, Kyle Allen who is at Houston and five-star prospect Kyler Murray is at Oklahoma. So after all the transfers the Aggies turn to another transfer quarterback, former Oklahoma play caller, Trevor Knight. UCLA comes into the game as a three-point underdog even though they’re ranked No. 16 in the nation. Coach Jim Mora should have no problem selling his team on the idea of their underdog role for this game. UCLA should come into the game playing loose and prepare for what A&M has to offer. On the offensive side of the ball, Rosen will be making his sophomore year debut as many people speculate that he could be the top quarterback chosen in the 2017 draft. Rosen and his new weapons need to put up numbers to take the pressure off of their defense. My prediction is that UCLA comes away with a close 38-28 victory.