Prediction: UCLA 34, Colorado 13
This is the first time since conference play that I can comfortably say the Bruins are more talented than their opponent.
While opposing injuries may have given UCLA football the skill advantage against Stanford and Arizona, a healthy Colorado team simply doesn’t have the personnel to match up with the Bruins.
That isn’t to say UCLA is a lock to win – weirder things have happened this season and sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson probably won’t be playing at 100% – but for the first time in a while, it isn’t considered an upset to pick the Bruins to win.
As long as his knee is good to go, Thompson-Robinson’s scrambling ability and his rapport with redshirt senior running back Joshua Kelley will carry the offense to another 30-plus point outing. The Buffaloes haven’t held their opponent to under 30 points since Oct. 20, 2018, and since the Bruins have scored 30-plus in three straight games, it’s easy to expect another big day for UCLA’s offense.
Thompson-Robinson doesn’t even need to put up a gaudy stat line – he hasn’t passed for over 200 yards since his historic performance against Washington State, but he has been efficient in the red zone and has made good option reads on the ground.
The quarterback’s Achilles’ heel this season has been turning the ball over – something he has done at least once in every game this year. Colorado is tied for 23rd in the nation with 14 forced turnovers this season, so if the Buffaloes are going to stay in the game, it’s going to be by roughing up Thompson-Robinson and giving their offense short fields.
That being said, I’m still leaning UCLA on Saturday.
Football beat reporter
Prediction: UCLA 38, Colorado 24
The Bruins’ season has reached a pivotal point.
After starting the season 1-5, UCLA football controls its own destiny in the Pac-12 South, which means it most likely needs to run the table to have a shot at the postseason – and it starts Saturday with Colorado.
The Bruins have been playing their best football under coach Chip Kelly over the past month and a half, and I don’t expect that trend to change in a home game against the Buffaloes.
Over the past three weeks, Colorado is averaging just 14.6 points per game compared to UCLA’s 35.6. The Bruins’ lowest scoring output in those three weeks was 31, which matches the Buffaloes’ highest output – a 31-point outing against USC last week.
Despite the numbers, UCLA will have to be cognizant of the weapons Colorado has on the offensive side of the ball. Led by senior quarterback Steven Montez and junior wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., the Buffaloes’ offense has the firepower to score in bunches.
Last season in Boulder, Montez completed 22 of his 26 pass attempts against the Bruins for 237 yards and a touchdown, with Shenault being the one responsible for 12 of those completions, 126 yards and a touchdown.
UCLA has struggled with containing big-play receivers this season, so it will be vital that the Bruins come out with a game plan for keeping the ball out of Shenault’s hands.
Another major factor to keep an eye on will be sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s left leg. He left last week’s game against Arizona State after taking a helmet to the left knee and didn’t return, but he practiced this week.
Thompson-Robinson’s mobility has been a key part of UCLA’s offensive success because of his ability to scramble and keep plays alive with his legs. If he’s healthy, the Bruins should be able to move down the field against a Buffalo defense that is allowing just under 35 points per game this season.