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Gameday predictions: UCLA vs. Utah

Redshirt junior running back Joshua Kelley rushed for 136 yards and one touchdown against Arizona on Saturday. Kelley has 688 yards from scrimmage and five rushing touchdowns in six games for UCLA football this season. (Daniel Leibowitz/Daily Bruin staff)

By Ryan Smith, Hanson Wang, Melissa Morris, and Sam Connon

Oct. 26, 2018 10:22 a.m.

Ryan Smtih
Sports editor
Prediction: UCLA 31, Utah 28

After starting the season 0-5, the Bruins have looked like a different team in their last two outings.

With back-to-back wins over California and Arizona, I have officially jumped on the hype train.

A win over Utah on Friday would do wonders for UCLA’s chances in the Pac-12 South, and I am always one for a good comeback story. The Bruins are going to be amped up for this game in front of their home crowd, and I expect them to deliver.

We don’t know who is going to start at quarterback after the injury to freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson, but the Bruins are going to need a big game out of whoever it is. The Utes own the best rushing defense in the Pac-12 – and it is not even close.

Utah is only allowing 74.6 yards per game on the ground this season – 41.7 yards less than Oregon, who own the conference’s second-best rushing defense.

Redshirt junior Joshua Kelley has four straight 100-yard performances for UCLA, but it looks like that streak may come to an end Friday. It is going to be even harder for Kelley to do so after the loss of starting right guard and graduate transfer Justin Murphy for the year with a knee injury.

With a new-look offensive line that will be playing together for the first time Friday, winning is going to be tough, but the Bruins will be playing with their backs against the wall and an opportunity to take to the lead in the South.

I like their chances.

Hanson Wang
Football beat reporter
Prediction: Utah 35, UCLA 31

On paper, the Utes should blow the Bruins out of the water.

Utah’s offense is humming on all cylinders after three consecutive 40-point performances against Stanford, Arizona and USC. Running back Zack Moss is averaging 5.6 yards per carry and more than 100 yards per game.

That’s bad news for a defense that just gave up 100-yard games to two running backs.

Quarterback Tyler Huntley is also peaking – he completed more than 75 percent of his passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns against the Trojans last week, and he’s always a threat to run the ball as well.

The only thing UCLA really has going in its favor is playing at home off a short week.

A couple of wacky plays are bound to go in the Bruins’ favor, and I think with an opportunity to move into first place in the Pac-12 South, the players will be focused enough to avoid the rash of unnecessary penalties that pockmarked most of their losses this season.

UCLA needs another 100-yard, 4.5-to-5-yard-per-carry performance from running back Joshua Kelley to win. To do so, the offensive line needs to carry the team to victory against the country’s top rushing defense, which gives up only 74.6 yards on the ground per game.

The offensive line has improved since the start of the year, but for now it’s still in the middle of the pack. Friday will be its opportunity to announce UCLA is back.

Sam Connon
Assistant Sports editor
Prediction: UCLA 34, Utah 28

The Bruins haven’t strung together a three-game winning streak since the span from Oct. 22 to Nov. 3, 2015, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say they do it this week.

No. 23 Utah is white hot, outscoring its opponents 123-59 over its last three games and bringing home all three Pac-12 Player of the Week awards this week.

But it wasn’t long ago that the Utes were stumbling as well.

They scored just 17 points against Northern Illinois and lost back-to-back games to Washington and Washington State.

Quarterback Tyler Huntley put up season highs in yards with 341 and touchdowns with four against USC last week. UCLA has done moderately well defending the pass this season, so I’m more worried about how they contain Huntley – who averages 13 carries per game – on the ground.

Redshirt junior running back Joshua Kelley has put up four straight 100-yard games and whoever starts at quarterback for the Bruins is rolling as well.

Freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson is 45-of-61 with 516 yards, three touchdowns and a 157.8 passer rating in his last ten quarters. Graduate transfer Wilton Speight racked up 204 yards and two touchdowns in three quarters of play against Arizona last week.

Utah’s defense allowed 28 points to a poor USC offense last week, so it’s safe to assume UCLA can put up more than that.

There’s a lot on the line for both teams, with the Pac-12 South title hanging in the balance, and I think the streaking Bruins will come out on top.

Melissa Morris
Assistant News editor
Prediction: UCLA 23, Utah 14

I went to a national park full of rocks in Utah like two years ago and it was raining. I didn’t know it then, but retrospectively I realize it was so painfully obvious that this was an omen.

UCLA will win, 23-14 on Friday. Can you actually get a score of 23 in football? Difficult to say.

Also I find using the names of Native American tribes in American sports shady, so therefore I personally smite the Utes and decide UCLA should win.

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Ryan Smith | Alumnus
Smith joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2016 and contributed until he graduated in 2020. He was the Sports editor for the 2018-2019 academic year, an assistant Sports editor for the 2017-2018 academic year and spent time on the football, men's basketball, women's basketball, men's water polo, baseball, men's golf and women's golf beats.
Smith joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2016 and contributed until he graduated in 2020. He was the Sports editor for the 2018-2019 academic year, an assistant Sports editor for the 2017-2018 academic year and spent time on the football, men's basketball, women's basketball, men's water polo, baseball, men's golf and women's golf beats.
Hanson Wang | Alumnus
Wang joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2015 and contributed until he graduated in 2019. He was an assistant Sports editor for the 2016-2017 academic year and spent time on the football, men's basketball, women's soccer, men's tennis and women's tennis beats.
Wang joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2015 and contributed until he graduated in 2019. He was an assistant Sports editor for the 2016-2017 academic year and spent time on the football, men's basketball, women's soccer, men's tennis and women's tennis beats.
Melissa Morris | Editor in chief
Morris is the 2020-2021 Editor in chief. She was previously the 2019-2020 assistant Enterprise editor as well as the 2018-2019 assistant News editor for the campus politics beat. She is also a fourth-year global studies student at UCLA.
Morris is the 2020-2021 Editor in chief. She was previously the 2019-2020 assistant Enterprise editor as well as the 2018-2019 assistant News editor for the campus politics beat. She is also a fourth-year global studies student at UCLA.
Sam Connon | Sports senior staff
Connon is currently a Sports senior staff writer for the football and men's basketball beats. He was the Sports editor for the 2019-2020 academic year, an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's soccer, cross country, men's golf and women's golf beats from 2018-2019 and a reporter on the baseball and women's basketball beats from 2017-2018. Connon also contributes movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment and co-hosts Daily Bruin Sports' weekly podcast, "Out of Bounds." Connon is a rising fourth-year Communication student from Winchester, Massachusetts.
Connon is currently a Sports senior staff writer for the football and men's basketball beats. He was the Sports editor for the 2019-2020 academic year, an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's soccer, cross country, men's golf and women's golf beats from 2018-2019 and a reporter on the baseball and women's basketball beats from 2017-2018. Connon also contributes movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment and co-hosts Daily Bruin Sports' weekly podcast, "Out of Bounds." Connon is a rising fourth-year Communication student from Winchester, Massachusetts.
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