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Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruins Host LSU Tigers
Will the Bruins use Greg Dulcich more this weekend? How will LSU's QB fare against UCLA? Can the Tigers' defense slow down the Bruins? And, the quintessential "swamp rock" song.
Welcome to week two of the 2021 iteration of Pregame Guesses. Last Saturday was fun, wasn’t it? It has been a long time since I felt that much joy for a UCLA performance in a season opener. Texas A&M in 2017 was joyous in the end, but the emotional journey to get there was a haphazard one. This was pure bliss from the get-go. Can UCLA put another notch in the win column again versus a much more difficult opponent, the #16 ranked Louisiana State University Tigers?
While researching this week’s musical selection (yes, I do that), the only act that I could locate from the Pelican state was the 90s outfit, Better Than Ezra, and although they are from Baton Rouge, they only had one hit and that song doesn’t really pop for me. So, this week’s tune quickly became pretty much a no-brainer. This classic rock band actually isn’t from anywhere near Louisiana, although their sound and the lyrics certainly make it seem as if they were. This week’s song also applies to man on the sidelines for LSU, the former Southern Cal defensive coordinator and head coach, Ed Orgeron who was born and raised in Larose, Louisiana, a small town south of New Orleans. If you haven’t guessed it already, this week’s song is the 1969 hit, “Born on the Bayou,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
John Fogerty’s croon even sounds somewhat similar to Ogreron’s gravelly voice, although Coach Ogre’s cajun drawl is much more difficult to understand.
All kidding aside, I want to take a moment to recognize the victims of Hurricane Ida. Larose, and most all of the bayous of Louisiana, were absolutely hammered last week. This has no doubt had a tangible effect on the LSU team. I hope that the Bruins make some sort of acknowledgment of this or a moment of silence tomorrow. It would be a classy move. I didn’t really think much about hurricanes until I moved to Florida in 1996, and I think most west-coasters are of the same ilk. But the devastation caused by these events is life changing to the people who lived through them. I hope those who were affected by Ida have the strength and support to get through these difficult times.
On to the guesses . . .
It is no secret that UCLA’s passing offense never really got going last week against Hawai’i. But, it didn’t really need to for the Bruins to get the job done. Once the Bruins controlled the game on the ground and on the scoreboard, it became more important for UCLA to “go vanilla” and limit the looks that could give LSU game film to use to scheme against the Bruins. As such, UCLA’s junior tight end, Greg Dulcich, only had once catch for 15 yards on the day. That was a far cry from 2020, when Dulcich averaged almost four catches and over 70 yards per game, all while finding the end zone five times in seven games. LSU’s defense was bad last year and there are questions throughout. Although the defensive line looks to be improved, the linebacking corps could be an Achilles heel. This could be a great matchup for Dulcich. Will UCLA be able to exploit this possible matchup?
PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: Predict the number of catches Dulcich will have tomorrow, his receiving yards, and his touchdown output.
Although the Tigers defense was poor last season, their offense was still very good, averaging 434 yards and 32 point per game. LSU’s offense did take a hit in training camp, as expected starting quarterback, Myles Brennan, suffered a season-ending injury. Enter sophomore Max Johnson, who started three games for the Tigers in 2020, and play well, especially in season-ending, high-scoring wins against Florida and Ole Miss. Johnson is a big kid, at 6’5”, but is very mobile for his size. In the Florida and Ole Miss games, Johnson threw for a combined 674 yards, six touchdowns, and only had one interception. This will be a much, much stiffer test for UCLA’s passing defense than Hawai’i’s signal caller, Chevan Cordeiro.
PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: Max Johnson averaged 337 passing yards in his last two games last season. That is where I am setting the line for passing yards in this game versus UCLA. Do you take the over or the under?
As alluded to in PGG #1, LSU defense was bad last year. They were #124 in total defense, allowing an average of 492 yards and over 35 points per game. Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini was shown the door, the secondary should be much improved this year, and the defensive line figures to be better against the run in 2021. But the players still need to show it on the field. No matter how LSU’s defense shakes out over the year, they still figure to be better versus UCLA than last week’s opponent. Will LSU’s defensive output actually match its potential against the Bruins? Or will the Tigers continue to struggle stopping the ball?
PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: How may rushing yards will UCLA put up against LSU? How many passing yards will the Bruins rack up versus the Tigers?
The attendance last week was about the worst I’ve ever seen at a UCLA game at the Rose Bowl. The announced attendance was 32,982, but it looking like about half of that consisted on season ticket holders who did not show up. People can talk about the reasons behind it: students not in class; hot as Hades in the Rose Bowl in a midday game; a non-marquee opponent; COVID and mandatory masking. I get it. But this is perhaps the biggest non-conference home game in the last ten years for UCLA football. It certainly is the biggest game in the Chip Kelly era. LSU will travel well. Will the Bruins have a home field advantage?
BONUS GUESS: Predict the attendance at the Rose Bowl tomorrow.
Thank you for reading this week. Make your guesses in the comments below. I am beyond excited for the game tomorrow.