Football beat writer
Prediction: UCLA 45, Memphis 35
Bruin fans expecting a cakewalk will likely be disappointed, as the Tigers’ explosive offense should make this an entertaining matchup into the second half.
UCLA is clearly the more talented squad, but the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium will be packed and rowdy – $4 draft beers for the first 45 minutes after gates open – and Memphis coach Mike Norvell will have his guys ready to go.
Add in the fact that UCLA could be without several of its key defensive players, and you have a recipe for trouble. With future NFL receiver Anthony Miller and talented quarterback Riley Ferguson, the Memphis passing game is dangerous, and the Bruins’ unproven run defense will be challenged by the Tigers’ impressive duo of running backs in Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor Jr.
All that said, Josh Rosen has looked nothing short of dominant over the past six quarters, and the Memphis defense is suspect at best. The Tigers allowed 279 passing yards to Louisiana-Monroe – in a hurricane, no less. Expect Rosen to far surpass that number and lead the Bruins to a win in a shootout.
Football beat writer
Prediction: UCLA 45, Memphis 26
There’s a good chance UCLA’s first-string offense will continue its streak of scoring touchdowns in each of its non-half-ending drives against Memphis.
There’s also a good chance neither team’s punter sees the field Saturday.
Both offenses will probably be able to move the ball at will, so I think the difference in the game will be which team is able to convert more of its red zone opportunities into touchdowns.
So far this season, UCLA has scored on each possession inside the red zone while holding both Texas A&M and Hawai’i scoreless on one trip inside the 20. Moreover, the Bruins forced two red zone field goals by the Aggies, who have a better offense than the Tigers.
I believe sophomore middle linebacker Lokeni Toailoa will have a bounceback performance against Memphis, since he will be counted on to be the anchor of the defense. And with sophomore nose tackle Boss Tagaloa potentially back in the lineup, the Bruins’ run defense should be more than serviceable.
Junior quarterback Josh Rosen and the offense may not be used to the environment and the time difference, but once they start clicking there’s no way Memphis’ shorthanded defense will be able to stop UCLA’s plethora of weapons.
Expect to see another trick play from offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch’s playbook – he’s attempted one in each game this year – and for redshirt senior receiver Darren Andrews to take the outright lead in reception touchdowns in the country once Saturday’s over. Memphis will go score-for-score with UCLA’s offense for the first half, but the Bruins will run away in the third quarter.
Prediction: UCLA 34, Memphis 13
Everyone thinks this game is going to be a shootout and rightfully so. You’re looking at two teams with a bunch of versatile weapons on offense and lackluster defenses. Memphis is coming off two weeks of rest having their game against Central Florida cancelled last week because of Hurricane Irma.
On top of that, they gave up 425 yards of offense in their opener against Louisiana Monroe. UCLA’s defense hasn’t faired much better, giving up 6.7 yards a carry to Hawai’i last week.
That being said, I think this game will be a low-scoring one. Yes, Josh Rosen has looked like the second coming of Troy Aikman and yes, Memphis’ Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor Jr. have rushed for a combined 300 yards and three touchdowns in one game – but there are a few things in this game that could slow it down.
The Bruins are playing the game at 9 a.m. PST, so it might take a little bit of the first quarter or two to adjust their body clocks. Additionally, coach Jim Mora has not revealed the injury status of two defensive starters in question – linebacker Kenny Young and defensive back Jaleel Wadood.
Fellow starting linebacker Josh Woods will also miss the first half of the game, serving a punishment for his targeting penalty last week against Hawai’i. I expect Memphis to run the ball down UCLA’s throats knowing this.
However, UCLA is 16-1 in regular season nonconference games since 2012, tied for the fourth-best mark in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Memphis definitely has skilled players who could cause trouble for UCLA’s secondary, but there’s too much talent on the Bruins’ side.
It’ll be a slow start for both teams as the temperature in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium is supposed to hit around 90 degrees with over 60 percent humidity. Expect Josh Rosen to slug out an ugly victory, but Memphis will keep it close for three quarters.
Prediction: UCLA 42, Memphis 35
I’m from the Bay Area. That means that as far as sports go, I’ve been spoiled with the success of my teams in the past few years. So I’m really counting on UCLA to continue that trend of winning for me, because it’s what I’m used to and I don’t like change. Seeing as UCLA just squeezed into the rankings this last week, it seems likely to expect the Bruins to pull off another win.
Now, I follow college football enough to know that Memphis has a pretty good quarterback and UCLA has a pretty not good defense, so I have no doubt that the Tigers will rack up the score a bit. But I also have no doubt that this is Josh Rosen’s year. He’s had an unreal start to the season and I don’t see any reason for that trend to stop at Memphis.
But the real reason I think UCLA will be winning this matchup. I’ll be photographing the game, so I’m definitely counting on Rosen to throw a couple of touchdown passes because they make for nice photos and all I really want are nice photos. In fact, I’m counting on all the points in this game being scored on touchdowns because I just want my football portfolio to look good and, sorry JJ Molson, but photos of kickers scoring field goals aren’t exactly the most exciting.