Vikram Sairam, football beat writer
Prediction: UCLA 45, Colorado 24
I think the Bruins will bounce back with a win against the Buffaloes this week – partially because the UCLA offense has been rolling this season, and partially because Colorado is coming off a 27-point loss to Washington this past weekend.
Even so, it should be a competitive game between two Pac-12 South teams looking to obtain their first conference win.
Junior quarterback Josh Rosen and company should have a field day against a struggling Colorado defense that loses nine starters from a unit that held UCLA to just 10 points last season. Coach Mike MacIntyre struggled to keep Washington running back Myles Gaskin in check last week, as the junior rushed for 202 yards on 27 carries.
Enter Soso Jamabo – junior running back who rushed for 100 yards last week, the first time a UCLA running back has done so in 18 games. While the offensive line has struggled early on in the season, I think this could be a coming-out party for Jamabo and the big men up front.
That isn’t to say Colorado doesn’t have offensive threats of its own. Earlier in the week, redshirt junior wide reciever Jordan Lasley mentioned how he grew up and played with Buffs receiver Shay Fields Jr. The 5-foot-11 senior is an explosive playmaker who has already entered Colorado’s all-time top 10 in receptions, touchdown receptions and receiving yards.
Overall, the Bruins have too much firepower on offense for the Buffs’ defense to handle. UCLA should put up at least three touchdowns in the first half coming off an ugly Stanford loss. Just for measure, last week’s 34 points was the lowest number UCLA’s put up in a game this season.
Matt Cummings, football beat writer
Prediction: UCLA 38, Colorado 35
Last year’s matchup between these two programs was a defensive battle that Colorado won by holding UCLA scoreless in the second half.
This year’s edition should be quite different – with Rosen running the offense, it would be surprising to see UCLA blanked for even a quarter.
Colorado saw four defensive players drafted last spring and another three signed to pro deals after the draft, leaving behind a young unit that held up decently in the Buffaloes’ three nonconference games but gave up almost seven yards per play in the Pac-12 opener against Washington.
UCLA’s offense might not be quite as polished as Washington’s, but the Bruins have plenty of firepower. Rosen leads the nation in passing yards, and the Bruins are averaging 45 points a game. They could potentially turn this game into a blowout, but considering UCLA’s well-documented defensive struggles, I wouldn’t count on it.
Colorado’s offense has been solid thus far, with quarterback Steven Montez completing over 70 percent of his passes and running back Phillip Lindsay averaging nearly five yards per carry.
These two teams’ meetings have proved exciting in each of the past three years, and I would expect this one to make it four straight. Ultimately, it’ll take the more explosive offense to pull it out with a late touchdown drive.
David Gottlieb, Sports editor
Prediction: UCLA 34, Colorado 17
If there’s one thing I’m excited to see in this game, it’s UCLA’s tackles. Day-after-day after this week’s practices, everyone was talking about how much UCLA emphasized tackling in this week’s practices.
I’m hoping that means we can expect some exciting, well-executed hits, as well as a decrease in the amount of big plays allowed – the kind of big runs that gouged the UCLA defense last week. If the Bruins can keep the Buffs under 20 points, it will be the first time they do so in 2017.
On the offensive side, it’s getting awfully hard not to have confidence in Rosen. The junior quarterback will have to keep his word and try to limit turnovers on bad decisions, but I don’t think four touchdowns against a Pac-12 opponent is too much to ask for.