UCLA vs. Colorado: Bruins Try to Get Back into Top 25

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2012

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Running back Johnathan Franklin #23 of the UCLA Bruins carries the ball against defensive lineman Rudolf Fifita #78 of the Oregon State Beavers at the Rose Bowl on September 22, 2012 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

UCLA will be looking to rebound after a disappointing loss to Oregon State when it takes on Colorado in Week 5. The Bruins had just cracked the Top 25 when they were upset by the Beavers and now have to start working their way back up.

It's a story completely opposite of the one the Buffaloes have endured. They opened the season with three-straight losses, including one to FCS opponent Sacramento State. They finally got in the win column by upending Washington State on Saturday.

That means there will be quite the mix of emotions on both sides heading into the game. Let's take a glance at all the vital information for the Pac-12 clash followed by a preview and prediction as the Bruins and Buffaloes battle.


Where: Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo.

When: Saturday, Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. ET

Watch: Pac-12 Network

Listen: KLAC 570 AM (UCLA) or 850 KOA AM (Colorado)

Live Streaming Audio: Buffs Radio Network

Betting Line: UCLA (-21) (Vegas Insider)


Injury Report (via USA Today)

UCLA: Jeff Baca (questionable, head)

Colorado: Brad Cotner (questionable, toe), Douglas Rippy (questionable, knee) and Ray Polk (questionable, ankle)


Can UCLA Rebound From its First Loss?

A fast start, combined with a favorable schedule, had UCLA in prime position to make a huge impact on the college football season. Losing to Oregon State at home quickly brought an end to those sky-high expectations.

The Bruins are still getting votes in both major polls, though, which means not all hope should be lost. If they can bounce right back and start another winning streak, the potential to have a memorable season still exists.

As they learned on Saturday, they can't take an opponent for granted. Even though the Bruins are three-touchdown favorites, they need a much better all-around performance to earn the victory.


Top 25 Implications

Although UCLA dropped out of both polls following the Week 4 loss, the team is still in the Top 25 conversation. A win over Colorado might not be enough to get them back in, but it would at least keep them in the mix.

The Bruins have games against USC and Stanford to end the regular season. If they can get back inside the rankings before those marquee games, they will at least give themselves a chance to have their best finish since 2005.


What They Are Saying

Letting a golden opportunity slip away wasn't lost on the Bruins players, according to Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times. The team knows it was in a promising position prior to letting a very winnable game slip away.

"Disappointment is what you're thinking," Bruins safety Tevin McDonald said of that trip to the locker room. "We left so much out there on the field."


UCLA Player to Watch: Brett Hundley

Even though the UCLA offense revolves around running back Johnathan Franklin, Hundley has also been tearing defenses apart in the early going. His play last week was one of the main reasons the Bruins were able get off to a quick start.

The redshirt freshman has completed 66 percent of his passes for nearly 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns so far. Hundley also has two rushing TDs. He has looked comfortable in the pocket and has a bright future ahead of him.

He should be able to put together another big game thanks to a Colorado defense that's among the worst in the nation at 39 points against per game. A weak unit to say the least.


Colorado Player to Watch: Nelson Spruce

Another redshirt freshman, Spruce has established himself as Colorado's go-to wide receiver. He has 21 catches for 234 yards and two touchdowns—including the team's opening score in the Washington State victory—through four games.

Oregon State exposed some weaknesses in the UCLA secondary by throwing for nearly 400 yards. In order to pull off the upset, Spruce and quarterback Jordan Webb must emulate that success since the Bruins are likely to score at will.

Spruce has stepped up in a big way. It will be interesting to see if he can sustain that success now as the level of competition continues to increase during conference play.


Key Matchup: Johnathan Franklin vs. Colorado Run Defense

Franklin was bottled up by the Oregon State defense, gaining just 45 yards on 12 carries. The lackluster performance caused him to lose a lot of ground atop the rushing-yards race. He now sits more than 100 yards behind Stefphon Jefferson of Nevada.

Luckily for Franklin, he should be able to make up some ground against the porous Colorado defense. The Buffaloes allowed Fresno State to gain nearly 300 yards in a blowout loss a few weeks ago and now have to face one of the nation's most dynamic backs.

It's a crucial game for UCLA as it attempts to prove last week's loss wasn't a sign of things to come. In situations like that teams always turn to their stay player, which is undoubtedly Franklin for the Bruins. He needs to lead the way.



UCLA 42, Colorado 17



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