Matt Cummings, football beat writer
Prediction: UCLA 94, Utah 88
A Friday-night Pac-12 football matchup between two middling teams – one possibly without its starting quarterback and the other having lost four games in a row.
If that doesn’t scream poorly-played-but-wildly-entertaining game to you, I don’t know what will.
I was asked to give a prediction this week, but that’s tough with junior quarterback Josh Rosen’s status up in the air.
Out of respect for the space, I offered a guess at the score, but really, my only prediction is this: Something weird is going to happen.
Maybe the refs have to pause the game because the ghost of Joe Williams is still running through the UCLA defense. Only an apparition could give them more tackling troubles than the real Joe Williams.
Maybe coach Jim Mora will get fed up with his defense and suit up for the Bruins, catapulting them to a win that will be reversed when the NCAA’s bigwigs wake up Saturday morning and hear there was an ineligible player used in the Pac-12 game they didn’t watch the night before.
Maybe the Bruins’ defense will play well.
I know, I know, I’m getting ridiculous here.
If there was ever an opponent that could make UCLA look good, though, it’s Utah. The Utes are averaging under 20 points per game in Pac-12 play and are averaging a modest 4.05 yards per rush on the year, meaning they’re not particularly well-positioned to take advantage of UCLA’s glaring weakness in run defense.
Especially if Rosen plays, the Bruins probably do have too much offensive firepower for the Utes.
The game might be most interesting if Rosen is out, giving Bruin fans a chance to see backup redshirt freshman quarterback Devon Modster run the UCLA offense for a whole game. Modster started slow last week against Washington, but found his groove by his third drive on the field, completing six of his seven passes as he led the Bruins on a touchdown drive.
With either quarterback running the show, I’ll take UCLA to win a game that entertains with weirdness, if not quality of play.
David Gottlieb, Sports editor
Prediction: UCLA 37, Utah 34
I don’t really buy that Josh Rosen is that hurt.
My guess is the junior quarterback will be in uniform and ready to play this Friday. The fact that coaches were so coy about Rosen’s situation this week mainly made me think they were trying to throw Utah off.
I think he’ll play pretty well, too. Well enough to win a shootout.
With all the hits he was taking, last week couldn’t have been fun for him. The numbers don’t look great on his part, either – just 93 yards in the air in over a half of playing time. He says all he cares about is whether the team wins, but I think he’ll be a little bit more amped up knowing that he was coming off such an abysmal game.
This isn’t exactly a hot take, but I am expecting the Utes to run all over the Bruins, just like the rest of the teams. Utah running back Zack Moss is no Joe Williams, but he doesn’t have to be.
In addition to our usual football experts, we always try to work in a guest prediction. This week, we’re giving our Daily Bruin contributor a shot. Here’s Sam Connon, who only became eligible to write for the Daily Bruin on Wednesday night.
Sam Connon, Daily Bruin contributor
Prediction: UCLA 41, Utah 31
For the third time this year, the Bruins are on the verge of dipping below .500.
And for the third time this year, the Bruins are going to pull one out and stay afloat just a little longer.
This game is in uncharted waters for UCLA. Of its eight games this year, four have been against teams currently ranked in the top 25 and the other four have been against unranked opponents.
All the games against ranked opponents have been on the road. Are the Bruins bad on the road, or do they just lose to better teams? The Bruins are playing in Salt Lake City tomorrow against an unranked Utah squad, so it’s a season-defining game.
Utah doesn’t have a great run game, meaning UCLA’s lackluster run defense hopefully won’t get abused again. And junior quarterback Josh Rosen, who got sacked four times last week before leaving with an injury, can rest easy in the pocket against a poor Utah pass rush.
Assuming Rosen plays, UCLA should still come out on top and carry some much-needed momentum into next week’s game versus Arizona State back in the Rose Bowl.