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Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruins at Washington Huskies
How will U-Dub's young QB fare? Can UCLA get to the Husky quarterback? Will the Bruins be able to balance their potent rushing attack with a good passing game? Also, a Seattle legend and his guitar.
The UCLA Bruin football team (4-2, 2-1 Pac 12) finds itself at the halfway point of the 2021 college football season, having played six of their twelve regular season games going into a showdown this weekend in Seattle versus the Washington Huskies (2-3, 1-1 Pac-12). The Bruins and Huskies will be showcased on national television with a 5:30 pm PT kickoff on Fox.
UCLA fans have been on a bit of a roller coaster this year, with bad losses to Fresno State and Arizona State being sprinkled in with otherwise good showings. On the whole, however, I think that most Bruin fans expected to see UCLA right about where they are, sitting at 4-2 after opponents such as LSU, Stanford, and Arizona State. The rub is that most would not have predicted how UCLA would get to 4-2.
Washington, on the other hand, has had a uniformly disappointing season so far with a loss to an FCS team, Montana; an overtime win against a bad UC Berkeley squad; and the only other win coming against Arkansas State, arguably the worst team in arguably the worst conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision of college football, the Sun Belt Conference. The Huskies have reason for optimism, however, as they have had two weeks to prepare for the Bruins and they might be the healthiest they have been all season going into this game.
For me, Public Image Limited’s “Seattle” is always the obvious choice for the musical selection this road game, but I seem to recall that I’ve been there, done that in a previous PGG. So, I need to look elsewhere. There is no shortage of Seattle artists to choose from, ranging from the grunge scene of the early 1990s to more modern alternative acts like Modest Mouse or Death Cab for Cutie. gbruin would lobby for Queensryche, but he’ll get his chance in a few weeks.
Born and raised in Seattle, Jimi Hendrix is a great choice but I am certainly NOT picking “Purple Haze” and jinxing by Bruins with a song featuring the primary color of the opponent’s uniform. I am sticking with Hendrix but I am picking a different tune. Like most Jimi Hendrix tunes, and like Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same,” from PGG a few weeks ago, this one features some epic guitar. Sit back and enjoy “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”:
That opening riff kills me. Every. Single. Time.
On to the guesses . . .
Like Arizona last week, Washington is among the worst teams in college football at rushing the football. The Huskies are #103 in the nation, only averaging 116.6 yards per game on the ground. Part of the reason for this could be the fact that U-Dub does not have a bellcow back. Indeed, four Husky running backs have more than 20 carries on the year but none of those four has more than 40 carries. No Husky running back has more than 188 yards rushing on the season. It’s a running’back-by-committee that has not worked that well.
In light of this, and UCLA’s strong rushing defense, Husky Head Coach Jimmy Lake figures to try to beat the Bruins through the air. The passing duties fall to freshman quarterback Dylan Morris, who redshirted in 2019 and played in four games in 2020, but still maintained his freshman eligibility to due COVID-19. Morris has been good but not great for UW in his first full season as signal caller, completing 106 passes out of 180 attempts (58.9 completion percentage), for 1,262 yards (252 .4 yards passing per game) with seven touchdowns and six interceptions. Will Morris be able to exploit his match-up with UCLA’s suspect passing defense? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: The UCLA defense allows over 300 passing yards per game. Will Morris rack up more or less than 300 yards in the air versus UCLA (Note: Morris has only reached the 300 yard threshold once this season, with 352 yards versus Arkansas State; he came close at Michigan, with 293 passing yards).
One way that UCLA might be able to slow down Dylan Morris is to put him on his back. After racking up 23 sacks in seven games last season (an average of 3.29 sacks per game), the Bruins only have 12 sacks through six games in 2021 (a 2.0 sack per game average). UCLA misses the four sacks that now-departed defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa recorded in 2020, but UCLA senior linebacker Caleb Johnson has not recorded a sack on the season, after getting to the quarterback 5.5 times in 2020. Hopefully, Johnson gets “off the schneid” in this game.
The Huskies, on the other hand, have allowed 12 sacks in five games so far this season, a 2.4 sack per game average, which is #83 in the nation. Can the UCLA pass rush affect the game by getting to the quarterback? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: How many times will the UCLA defense sack the Washington quarterback?
UCLA rushing offense has been a highlight so far this season. It matches up well against the Husky defense that just allowed 242 yards rushing in a close loss to Oregon State, and allowed 343 yards rushing to the Michigan Wolverines in 31-10 loss earlier this season. Like UCLA, Michigan features a backfield with two strong rushers.
But UCLA saw what happens when a defense sells out to stop the run, as Fresno State and Arizona State did in UCLA’s losses. Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown combined for 42 yards in the loss to the Bulldogs, and 122 yards in the Sun Devil loss. Given that the Bruins average 217 rushing yards per game, those poor totals against FSU and ASU were significant.
It appears that UCLA’s best recipe for success is when the offense throws the ball to open up the run, although Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s 82 passing yards versus Arizona in the easy win is the exception that proves the rule. Passing defense is Washington’s strength: the Huskies are #4 in the nation in passing yards allowed, averaging only 147.2 yards per game. So, will DTR be able to bring balance to the UCLA offense by passing the ball? He averages 206 passing yards per game PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: True or false? DTR throws for more than 200 passing yards tomorrow and, as result, UCLA beats Washington on the road.
We are going to get a little silly with the bonus PGG this week. In the past, whenever I watch a game at Washington on television, there is always the obligatory Lake Washington camera shot showing the boats “sailgating” on the lake. Well, the sun sets at 6:19 tomorrow, which means that the Fox television camera-persons only have about 49 minutes from kickoff to air a shot of Lake Washington before the sun goes down. Given that it won’t be too dark for a lake shot for an additional thirty minutes or so after sunset, I predict that we will get at least two camera shots of the lake during tomorrow’s broadcast. Will my prediction be proven correct? BONUS GUESS: How many camera shots of Lake Washington will FOX show during tomorrow night’s broadcast?
That’s it for this week. Make your guesses and give us your thoughts on the game in the comment section below.