Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruins Host Arizona Wildcats
An L.A. band with a song about a UCLA problem is featured in this week's PGG.
I hope that everyone had a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. Now, work off the tryptophan malaise by taking a stab at this week’s Pregame Guesses. The first question and the music will focus on UCLA’s turnover problem in its two losses, whereas the second and third questions will focus on UCLA’s opponent this weekend, the Arizona Wildcats.
The bonus question is obvious, at least at the time of this writing, as UCLA Head Coach Chip Kelly has been mum on who will be under center for the Bruins on Saturday, although incumbent Dorian Thompson-Robinson has tweeted that he does not have COVID. On Monday, Kelly told reporters to “play Columbo and investigate.” LOL. Maybe someone from Arizona will book a room at the Luskin Center and see who is taking first rep snaps at UCLA practices on the adjacent field . . . .
Turnovers. Turnovers have been the bugaboo of the 2020 season. Not only is UCLA statistically one of the worst teams in turnover margin in the NCAA at minus seven through three games (losing nine turnovers and only forcing two), but the Bruins have lost the ball early in the game, in their own end, and with those turnovers leading directly to quick and easy touchdowns.
In the Colorado game, Kyle Phillips fumbled a punt on the Bruins’ first touch of the season. Colorado scored a touchdown four plays later on a short field to go up 7-0.
DTR was picked on UCLA’s next possession, and the return was to the one yard line. The Buffs scored one play later, making it 14-0.
Early in the 2nd quarter, Demetric Felton coughed up the rock and Colorado recovered at the UCLA seven-yard line. They scored on the next play, extending the lead to 21 points.
In the Oregon game, early in the first quarter, UCLA’s backup QB Chase Griffin fumbled at midfield, but Oregon returned the football to the UCLA 19 and scored on the next play to go up 7-0.
And, finally, there was Griffin’s pick-six to end the half of the Oregon game, turning a 21-17 Bruin lead into a 21-24 bruin deficit.
Those five turnovers, all of which were in the first half of the two games the Bruins lost by three and six points, respectively, resulted in UCLA giving up 35 needless points, plenty enough to outweigh the margins of loss in those games. And, the opponents collectively needed only seven total offensive plays to score those five touchdowns after those early turnovers on UCLA’s side of the field. Say what you will about the defense, but those points are not the fault of that unit, which has actually been playing pretty good football over the past two games.
So, the song this week was obvious to me immediately after the Oregon game, and was reinforced by Joe’s post game headline. Plus it’s from an iconic L.A. band whose bass player has played the National Anthem at Pauley Pavilion. You can’t go wrong with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and this week’s song, of course, is “Give It Away”:
On to the guesses . . .
So, back to the turnover thing. In UCLA’s sole victory this season over UC Berkeley, both teams lost one turnover. The Bruins cruised in that one, winning 34-10. In the Bruins’ two losses, UCLA could have won had one or more of the multiple, early turnovers in those games not occurred. There is a direct correlation between UCLA losing the ball and UCLA losing games.
On the other side of the ledger, Arizona has played two games this year, losing to Washington and Southern Cal, although the ‘Cats gave the game away against the Trojans. The Wildcats have only lost the ball twice, but they have yet to force a turnover. That makes for an interesting match-up. Arizona doesn’t seem to be able to force a giveaway and UCLA seems to “give it away, give it away, give it away now.” PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: It’s a two-parter. How many times will UCLA turn over the football? How make takeaways will UCLA get versus Arizona.
Arizona quarterback Grant Gunnell has been responsible for six of the Wildcats’ seven touchdowns this season, all six of which were through the air. Arizona’s passing game has been better than its rushing game so far this year, so the Bruins will need to slow down Gunnell. After a disastrous start versus Colorado, UCLA’s pass defense improved dramatically in the UC Berkeley game, and wasn’t embarrassed by Tyler Slough and Oregon’s potent passing offense. How will the Bruins perform against Gunnell and the Wildcats? Pre-Game Guess Number 2: It’s another two parter. How many passing yards will UCLA allow? How many of those passes will be for touchdowns?
What about Arizona’s defense? The Wildcats allowed Southern Cal to gain 498 yards of offense before surrendering 472 against the Huskies. And Washington took its foot off the gas in the 4th quarter against Arizona, after the Huskies were up 37-0. Will UCLA be able to move the ball against the Wildcats? I think they will. I am setting the line at the average of the yards gained by Arizona’s previous two opponents: 485. Are you taking the over or the under? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER 3: Will UCLA gain more or less than 485 yards of offense versus the Wildcats on Saturday?
I teased it in the opening paragraph. Who will start under center for UCLA on Saturday. BONUS GUESS: Will Chase Griffin or Dorian Thompson-Robinson start at the quarterback position for the Bruin versus Arizona?
And that’s it for today. Only two more PGGs this season, unless UCLA manages to get invited to a bowl game. All teams are eligible this season, regardless of record. So, it’s not far-fetched if the Bruins can hold onto the ball! Make your guesses and let us know your thoughts about the upcoming game in the comments below!