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Pregame Guesses: #13 UCLA Bruins Host Fresno State Bulldogs
Will Fresno State's QB continue to shine against UCLA's pass defense? Can UCLA LB Mitchell Agude keep forcing fumbles? What about Dorian Thompson-Robinson's numbers?
The #13 ranked UCLA football team is off to a great start in 2021 and will look to run its non-conference record to a perfect 3-0 when the Bruins take on the Fresno State Bulldogs tomorrow night at the Rose Bowl. Kickoff it at 7:30 pm PT.
A UCLA win would see the Bruins undefeated in non-conference play for the first time since 2015 and for the first time in the Chip Kelly era. The Bulldogs gave Oregon trouble in Week 1 and the Ducks handled Ohio State in Columbus last weekend. So, the Bruins cannot get caught looking ahead to their road match up versus Stanford next week.
UCLA is playing in its first “Pac-12 After Dark” of the season. Although these late kickoffs are great for folks attending in person—beat the heat!—it can be hard on transplanted Bruins on the East Coast. 7:30 pm kickoffs mean 10:30 pm kickoffs out here, which means the game will end around 1:30 or 2:00 am. If the game is exciting, you also have to work in an extra hour or so to calm down. A 3:00 am bedtime is tough even if it is not on a “school night.”
Although midnight will not even be close to the time the game will end—it will be around halftime—the song I have chosen for this week’s PGG is “Sometime Around Midnight,” by The Airborne Toxic Event. It’s a great song from a good band in 2008, when it was iTunes #1 alternative hit of the year.
I like the orchestral open and how the song builds up to a thundering crescendo. On to the guesses.
Fresno State’s quarterback Jake Haener leads the nation in passing yards, racking up 1,009 yards in three games. Many quarterbacks on the list of top passers have only played two games to Haener’s three, but even if one looks at passing yards per game, Haener is still #8 in the nation, averaging 336.33 yards per game. Conversely, the strength of UCLA’s defense is stopping the run, not stopping the pass. The Bruins are #115 in passing yards allowed, surrendering 286.5 yards per game. In my opinion, this will be a major key to the game. Something has to give. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: I am setting the line at 310 yards, roughly the mean between Haener’s passing yards per game and the yards per game allowed by UCLA. Does the Bruin defense allow more or less than 310 yards against the Fresno State passing offense?
Turnovers have been a factor for the Bulldogs so far this season. Although Fresno State has picked off a pass and recovered three fumbles, they have also been picked off once and lost four fumbles in three games. Although UCLA has yet to recover a fumble, senior linebacker Mitchell Agude has forced four fumbles in two games, the best in the nation. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: PGG #2 has three parts. How many total fumbles will UCLA force? How many of the total fumbles will the Bruins recover? Will any of the total fumbles (recovered by the Bruins or not) be caused by Agude?
I cannot believe that I haven’t talked about Dorian Thompson-Robinson until guess number three of the third Pregame Guesses of the 2021 season. Thompson-Robinson wasn’t great versus Hawai’i—nor did he need to be—but he was better against LSU. He has learned that he doesn’t need to do it all by himself. The Bruins have so many weapons on offense. He just needs to run the show. I want full stats for Thompson-Robinson versus Fresno State. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: Predict Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s passing attempts, completions, passing touchdowns, and interceptions. Also predict his rushing attempts, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns.
Athletic Director Martin Jarmond is to be commended for pulling out the stops to get bodies in the seats in the Rose Bowl versus LSU. By all accounts, it was an electric atmosphere, 180 degree from Hawai’i the week before. 68,123 showed up for LSU, as opposed to just 32,982 the week before (no doubt the actual number was less that that though). With a kickoff after sunset, the heat should not be a factor. Further, classes begin on Monday so there is a good chance that at least some students make it out on Saturday. Right? Right????? BONUS GUESS: Predict the attendance at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night.
Make your guesses in the comment thread below.