UCLA Football: Game-by-Game 2013 Season Predictions
With the 2013 recruiting season in the books, it's never too early to take a look at the schedule this upcoming season for the UCLA Bruins.
To be frank, the slate is quite daunting.
The road schedule is arguably the toughest in the entire conference. In addition, the Bruins will have to travel to Lincoln in order to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers. It won't be easy for a young team to perform in front of one of the most intimidating crowds in all of college football.
Here is a look at UCLA's schedule in its entirety, as well as projections as to how the Bruins could finish.
*The 2013 schedule can be found here.
August 31st: Nevada
In the 2013 season opener, the Bruins will welcome the Nevada Wolf Pack to the Rose Bowl.
Leading the Wolf Pack is quarterback and Southern California native Cody Fajardo. Fajardo is a dual-threat signal caller in every sense of the term.
The soon-to-be junior threw for 2,786 yards and 20 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,121 yards. He's as tough as nails and plays the game with great enthusiasm.
Longtime Nevada head man Chris Ault announced his retirement and will be replaced by Brian Polian. Ault was the orchestrator of the famed pistol offense. With Polian at the helm, the pistol offense will continue to be run in Reno.
This isn't a gimme game for the Bruins by any stretch. Last season, Nevada went into Berkeley and upended the Golden Bears in the season opener.
I expect this to be a semi-close contest. However, Jim Mora will have his team ready to go in the opener.
UCLA 38 Nevada 24
September 14th: At Nebraska
Last season, Taylor Martinez made big strides as a quarterback. In 2012, he set personal career highs for passing yards, touchdowns thrown and completion percentage.
In the contest last season versus the Bruins, Martinez was constantly pressured—especially in the second half. When he doesn't set his feet, the accuracy on his passes suffers tremendously.
That will be the big question heading into this year's contest as well. UCLA has to be cognizant of Martinez's ability to run the football, but also respect his newfound ability to be a threat throwing the football.
Fortunately for UCLA, the Bruins will have a bye week before heading off to Lincoln. It also does help that the Bruins have some familiarity with the Cornhuskers, considering that the two played against each other last season.
Another aspect that bodes well for UCLA is that it returns the vast majority of its front seven. That should prove to be paramount against a running attack headed by Martinez and the talented Ameer Abdullah.
The crowd will be a major factor for the Bruins. With a young team, it wouldn't be a shock to see Brett Hundley and the rest of the squad get rattled amidst the sea of red.
However, the Bruins do have an advantage in overall talent. Expect a very close, hard-fought win for the Bruins.
UCLA 31 Nebraska 28
September 21st: New Mexico State
It's not a good sign when your head coach leaves in order to become a secondary coach in the NFL.
For the New Mexico State Aggies, that exact scenario happened—as head man (and former UCLA defensive coordinator) DeWayne Walker left in order to become the defensive backs coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Walker's former team went 1-11 last season. In the majority of the games, the Aggies weren't even competitive.
Chalk this game up as cupcake city for the Bruins.
UCLA 55 New Mexico St. 10
October 3rd: At Utah
The state of Utah has been a house of horrors for the UCLA Football program in recent years.
Needless to say, this won't be an easy game to win.
Utah will lose arguably their top two players in Star Lotulelei and John White III, but return rising sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson.
Wilson has loads of natural ability and will look to improve upon a solid freshman campaign.
There's no doubt that UCLA has more overall talent when compared to the Utes. However, the adverse weather conditions could prove problematic. There's also the notion of the Bruins not traditionally performing well in the state of Utah.
Will that prove to be a issue? Based on talent, the Bruins should eke out a very close, low-scoring affair.
UCLA 21 Utah 17
October 12th: California
The Golden Bears will be ushering in the Sonny Dykes era in Berkeley this year. Coming from La. Tech, Dykes will bring with him his famed "Air Raid" offense—predicated upon spread formations and a fast tempo.
Dykes' La. Tech team last season was first nationally in scoring offense, but dead last in overall defense. In other words, expect Cal to put up a ton of points, in addition to probably relinquishing a few as well.
Highly touted redshirt freshman Zach Kline should take the reigns of the offense. He's a very talented player with a quick release, and should be a great fit in Dykes' offense.
Unfortunately for Cal, running backs Brendan Bigelow and Daniel Lasco are projected to be out until the start of fall camp.
This is significant, because the Golden Bears have lost their two top running backs from a year ago to graduation in Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson. Bigelow is bar none the most explosive player on the roster. He's most likely going to assume the role as the starting tailback.
Cal also lost star wide receiver Keenan Allen and starting cornerback Steve Williams to the NFL.
It will take some time for Dykes' offense to completely click. While Kline is very talented, growing pains are expected to ensue. Cal does have a good deal of ability on the defensive side of the ball, and it will be interesting to see the transition from the 3-4 to a 4-3 formation.
UCLA 35 Cal 24
October 19th: At Stanford
The game at Stanford starts a very tough second-half portion of the schedule for UCLA.
It's no easy task playing in Palo Alto. The Bruins found that out last season—losing in the hotly contested Pac-12 Championship Game by a score of 27-24.
Much like how UCLA has to replace Johnathan Franklin and Joe Fauria, the Cardinal will have to replace its leading rusher in Stepfan Taylor, and leading receiver Zach Ertz.
Taylor is the all-time leading rusher for the Cardinal. He's been a physical runner, reveling in contact.
Much of Stanford's offensive success came on play action. The recipient on a majority of those throws was Ertz.
I was tempted to call this a Bruins' victory, but Stanford returns the majority of a stellar defense from a season ago. Stalwarts Shayne Skov, Ben Gardner and Trent Murphy all decided to bypass the NFL and come back to college.
Quarterback Kevin Hogan should be more polished in his second year as the starting quarterback, and Stanford's defense will be a staunch unit.
Tailback Anthony Wilkerson is also a very talented prospect. With the depth on the offensive line, the rushing output shouldn't really skip a beat.
Stanford 28 UCLA 20
October 26th: At Oregon
After playing in what should be a physical matchup in Palo Alto, the Bruins are rewarded the following weekend with a finesse, fast-paced game in Eugene against the Oregon Ducks.
Oregon has a new head coach in Mark Helfrich. Helfrich was promoted from offensive coordinator after Chip Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles.
With Helfrich in charge, no one should expect any monumental change in style of play. While Kenjon Barner graduates, the Ducks will be more than okay with the dynamic duo of De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff.
Additionally, tailback Byron Marshall has the looks of a future NFL draft pick one day from the running back position. He's solidly built and is great running between the tackles.
This will be a very tough game for the Bruins to win. In order to defeat the Ducks, they'll have to control the clock via their run game and get after Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
That's easier said than done.
Oregon 41 UCLA 31
November 2nd: Colorado
The hapless Colorado Buffaloes should have some optimism.
For one, they've hired a great coach in Mike MacIntyre from San Jose State. Also, the team's best player, Paul Richardson, will return from a torn ACL. More than anything, the team can only go up from this point.
MacIntyre is in a tough spot from a personnel standpoint. There's not much depth or talent on the roster, and as a result he'll more than likely have to rely upon many young players.
Tons of work needs to be done in order to rectify an offensive unit that ranked towards the bottom of the nation in both total passing and rushing. Defensively, there is some young talent. Again though, depth should be an issue.
MacIntyre will have Colorado playing hard. It won't be a shock to see the Buffs upset some teams along the way this season. However, the talent disparity between these two teams is too great.
UCLA 45 Colorado 17
November 9th: At Arizona
Not very many people may realize this, but the Arizona Wildcats have owned the series recently against UCLA.
UA has defeated the Bruins in six of the last eight contests. More than that, the majority of those wins have been blowouts. In the last meeting in Tucson, the Wildcats smoked the Bruins by a score of 48-12 (and it wasn't even that close).
Last season, the Bruins returned the favor with a 66-10 obliteration of Rich Rodriguez's team. UCLA held uber-talented back Ka'Deem Carey to only 54 yards and made it extremely difficult for a woozy Matt Scott.
This upcoming season, Arizona has a big question mark at quarterback. It's unknown as to who will man the position at this point. Carey has also suffered some off-the-field problems, and that's worth watching as well.
Arizona's overall depth should be improved from a year ago, along with the overall conditioning of the squad.
It's never easy for anyone—let alone UCLA—to head into Tucson amidst the hysteria of the 'Zona Zoo and get a win. Arizona will want to atone for the blowout from a year ago, and there's just some sort of jinx that plagues the Bruins in Tucson.
Arizona 31 UCLA 27
November 15th: Washington
This game will mark the first time as the UCLA coach that Jim Mora will go up against his alma mater.
Much like the Bruins, the Washington program under Steve Sarkisian is on an upswing. He's done a nice job at stockpiling versatile, athletic talent up at Montlake.
Senior quarterback Keith Price should be in line for a big senior season. The UW offense will also be buoyed by running back Bishop Sankey and elite tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Defensively, Shaq Thompson is a star in the making. He's an absolute physical specimen and has the potential to be a top-10 pick one day.
UW has good depth across all levels of its defense. The linebacker corps in particular is a collection of rangy, dynamic athletes.
The Huskies' biggest problem is up front on the offensive line. Sark's group has been decimated considerably by injury. There's no semblance of proven depth, nor is there much continuity.
For that reason, UCLA should have an advantage. The Bruins will return the majority of its front seven—including Anthony Barr. With a lack of protection and possible run game, it'll make things very difficult on Price. When pressured, Price has the propensity to force throws, which ultimately result in turnovers.
Washington is a talented team, but it helps UCLA that this game is being played at home.
UCLA 35 Washington 24
November 23rd: Arizona State
Whenever the Bruins and Sun Devils square off, more than likely it'll be a close affair. The past two seasons, UCLA has won by one point and two points, respectively.
Todd Graham hit the JC ranks hard in this latest recruiting class, especially on the defensive line. In a boon for ASU, all-everything defensive tackle Will Sutton also opted to return for his senior season.
He's an absolute animal on the interior of the defensive line. His combination of quickness and strength make him one of the best in the country.
D.J. Foster is a young player with immense upside. He's electric with the ball in his hands and is most effective when out in space.
In theory, these could be the top two teams in the Pac-12 South Division when it's all said and done. Arizona State has done a nice job of building depth on the defensive side of the ball, and have players offensive that could give UCLA some fits.
This is a toss-up game, but I give the Bruins the close edge at home.
UCLA 34 Arizona State 31
November 30th: At Southern Cal
For the first time in a decade, it seems as if the momentum in the city of Los Angeles is swinging over towards UCLA.
Southern Cal is in somewhat of a tumultuous state. In terms of top-tier talent, the Trojans are among the best in the conference. From a depth standpoint, the scholarship sanctions are crippling the program.
With the likes of Matt Barkley, T.J. McDonald, Robert Woods, Nickell Robey and others gone, it's a transitional period for Southern Cal.
A quarterback derby will take place amongst Max Wittek, Cody Kessler and incoming freshman Max Browne. Wittek looked pretty pedestrian in his brief time last season. Kessler was unable to beat him out for the backup slot, and it'd be asking an awful lot for a true freshman to man the quarterback position.
There isn't a more talented receiving duo in the conference than Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor, but who will get them the ball?
There is talent all over the field for Southern Cal, but with the lack of tangible numbers, possible injuries make things very dicey.
With this game being played in the Coliseum, the odds are still against the Bruins. UCLA hasn't won in the Coliseum since 1997. That trend very well may continue this upcoming season, but the tide has seemingly turned towards the Bruins' favor.
The Bruins are a deeper team and have a more stable option at quarterback. If Southern Cal has a mediocre season up until this game, there's no telling how the team will respond around an already beleaguered head coach in Lane Kiffin.
UCLA 31 Southern Cal 20
Projected Finish: 9-3
There's no doubt this is a very difficult schedule, particularly on the road.
With a non-conference game against a premier opponent on the road, followed later in the season by two back-to-back games on the road against projected top-10 teams, nothing will be easy.
With one projected loss in the South Division to Arizona, the Bruins should be able to make their third straight appearance in the Pac-12 Championship Game.