QB Brett Hundley
The 2013 UCLA Bruins football team faces one of the most daunting schedules in the entire nation.
Road trips to Nebraska, Arizona, Oregon, Stanford and Southern Cal don't give the Bruins much margin for error. The upstart Arizona State Sun Devils will also pay a visit to to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. This contest could decide the eventual winner of the Pac-12 South Division.
Jim Mora's bunch will have to display a great deal of resolve in order to repeat as the winner of the Pac-12 South Division.
Let's take a look at game-by-game predictions for the 2013 season.
Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo
Right off the bat, UCLA's defense will be tested by talented signal-caller Cody Fajardo.
Fajardo is one of the of the nation's most undervalued dual-threat quarterbacks. Last season, the Servite High School product threw for 2,786 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,121 yards and 12 touchdowns.
It's absolutely imperative that UCLA keeps containment on the edge against the zone read. Fajardo will shred the defense if that doesn't happen. JUCO transfer Don Jackson is a talented player from the running back spot. He will help to complement Fajardo in the run game.
Nevada's defense was atrocious last year. The unit gave up an average of 33.8 points per contest in 2012. In particular, the secondary was porous defending against the pass. Matters were made worse with the suspension of starting safety Charles Garrett. It isn't known if he'll be able to play in the season opener.
Defensive ends Brock Hekking and Ian Seau figure to be the two most talented members of the defense. Hekking led the team in sacks a season ago with 8.5.
UCLA has an advantage from a depth and talent standpoint. Both lines should be able to control the game up front. As a result, Brett Hundley should have a big day throwing to targets such as Devin Fuller and Devin Lucien.
The Wolf Pack should not be taken lightly in the least bit. In 2012, Nevada went to Berkeley and beat Cal in the season opener.
Nevada will definitely score points, but they won't be able to defend very well.
UCLA 45, Nevada 31
Martinez and Abdullah will be very dangerous.
This game will provide a great litmus test for both programs.
For UCLA, heading to Lincoln amidst a massive sea of red will offer a great opportunity. A win against the Cornhuskers on the road should signify that the Bruins are for real.
Nebraska's offense will be a tough task to defend against. Like Fajardo, Martinez is one of the best dual-threat signal-callers in the country. His ability to improvise and create big plays with his feet makes him extremely dangerous.
Tailback Ameer Abdullah is a cat-quick athlete with big play ability. The trio of Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner and Quincy Enunwa will make up one of the best wide receiver corps UCLA faces all season.
Nebraska struggled on defense a year ago. To remedy the situation, the Cornhuskers got younger, faster and more athletic on defense. Depth issues do plague the defensive line—specifically at tackle.
Both teams will be hungry for a win against a ranked opponent. In some aspects, a victory could act as a springboard into a successful 2013 season for either program.
UCLA is fortunate from the standpoint that the team will have faced a very similar quarterback to Martinez in the first week of the season. Also, the Bruins will have an extra week of preparation for the Cornhuskers.
For that reason, the Bruins will leave Lincoln with a slim victory.
UCLA 38, Nebraska 35
The Aggies will have a tough time in the Rose Bowl.
New Mexico State went 1-11 last season. The Aggies were 114th nationally in points for (18.7) and 120th nationally in points against (39.4).
Head coach Doug Martin has inherited a program that has won 13 games in five years. The program hasn't reached the postseason since 1960.
But hey, at least he's enthusiastic about the arduous task at hand.
UCLA 59, New Mexico State 3
Utah QB Travis Wilson
This is a potential trap game for the Bruins.
Playing in Salt Lake City against a raucous crowd is never an easy proposition. It'll likely be pretty cold in Utah during October—far colder than it will be in Westwood. The last time UCLA played at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the Bruins were beaten soundly by a score of 31-6.
Additionally, this game is being played on a Thursday night. The Bruins will most likely be coming off of a relatively easy victory against New Mexico State in the previous week. The stage could be set for a possible upset.
Kyle Whittingham's team will be disciplined and physically tough. Defensively, the Utes should be buoyed by the likes of Trevor Reilly, Tenny Palepoi, Reggie Porter and Eric Rowe. If linebacker Gionni Paul and defensive tackle Sese Ianu become eligible, Utah could boast one of the best defenses in the conference.
Offensively, sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson will lead the way. He should be able to continue in his development and become a solid thrower. In the backfield, Kelvin York and Troy McCormick are two talented options.
Utah is a vastly underrated football team. It would not be a surprise to see the Utes contend for the South Division crown.
This type of contest is one that UCLA needs to win. A win against a mature football team on the road in a hostile environment will truly illustrate that the Bruins are growing as a program. Mora's crew will find a way to win a close affair.
UCLA 26, Utah 19
Brendan Bigelow is lightening in a bottle.
The Bruins were unceremoniously trounced by Cal last season.
Mora's team committed multiple turnovers in the contest. UCLA laid the proverbial egg in an incredibly disappointing performance. Heading into 2013, UCLA would like to return the favor at home in the Rose Bowl.
New head coach Sonny Dykes has already been making waves in Strawberry Canyon. He made a bold move by appointing true freshman Jared Goff as the starting quarterback.
With a freshman signal-caller, expect stud running back Brendan Bigelow to see plenty of the rock. He's an electric runner in space—as evidenced by this touchdown a season ago versus Ohio State.
Cal's defense should be a solid unit across the board. The defensive line led by DeAndre Coleman, Chris McCain and Mustafa Jalil should be a strength. The return of Stefan McClure from injury will also help considerably in the secondary.
The Golden Bears do have talent. However, there could be growing pains with Goff at quarterback. UCLA will also want to atone for last year's embarrassment in the Bay Area. Expect Mora's team to be extremely motivated.
UCLA 38, Cal 17
Hundley against Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game
The game at Stanford will be the first leg of a grueling back-to-back road trip for UCLA. Mora's group will have to travel to Oregon the next week after facing the Cardinal in Palo Alto.
UCLA played Stanford very tough last season in the Pac-12 Championship Game. In all actuality, the Bruins could have won the game.
Stanford figures to be very tough again this season. The offensive line is seemingly always going to be a strength. Quarterback Kevin Hogan should be more polished in his second year on the field.
This game will be a great barometer for UCLA. It's conceivable to think that the Bruins will be 5-0 heading into this tilt. It's a very winnable game, and one that presents a big opportunity. A victory against Stanford on the road could truly make the Bruins relevant in the national spotlight.
The Bruins' best shot at winning would probably consist of getting athletes out in space. Devin Fuller in particular could have a big day in the slot.
Alas, Stanford will rely upon running backs Anthony Wilkerson and Tyler Gaffney for a close victory. A strong running attack will open up the play action pass for Hogan. In particular, tight end Luke Kaumatule could have a big day.
UCLA is one year away from potentially being on the same level as the Cardinal.
Stanford 28, UCLA 24
QB Marcus Mariota is one of the best dual-threat QBs in the nation.
The atmosphere at Autzen Stadium in Eugene is unlike any in the country. Couple that with the breakneck speed of Oregon's highly potent offense, and life is made extremely difficult for opponents.
It might be too much to ask of UCLA's young team to get a victory against the Ducks on the road. The young secondary could possibly get overwhelmed by the moment. Not to mention, the Bruins will have to deal with the likes of De'Anthony Thomas, Josh Huff and a host of very fast skill players.
Oregon does have an athletic defense. With that said, the defense generally is undersized. UCLA could have success running the ball. Dually, a strong defensive line is requisite when playing the Ducks. Pressure from up front will disrupt the deadly zone read play with Marcus Mariota.
The inside zone read is a major principle of Oregon's offense. Nose tackles Ellis McCarthy and Seali'i Epenesa will do wonders if both can get penetration. It will upset the timing and rhythm of a simple play that has so many variations and options. UCLA would then have to keep containment on the edge. Mariota running in space often is something that will likely signal a loss.
The inexperience on the defense for UCLA will be something to watch. It just doesn't seem likely that the Bruins will enter such a hostile environment and get the victory. This game will be a closer affair than people think.
Oregon 38, UCLA 28
UCLA should have no problem with Colorado.
The Buffaloes made a shrewd hiring when electing Mike MacIntyre as their new head man. He will eventually right the ship for Colorado.
It just won't be this season.
He's entered a pretty tough situation. Colorado lacks depth and talent at every position. There needs to be a complete overhaul of the roster. In essence, this rebuilding project will take a few years until the Buffaloes can be considered relevant.
UCLA 49, Colorado 17
UCLA defeated Arizona last season by quite a large margin.
Here is the slip-up game in 2013.
UCLA absolutely demolished the Arizona Wildcats last season by a score of 66-10. It was almost as if Arizona was caught in a cloud of confusion for three hours at the Rose Bowl. The Bruins absolutely ran roughshod over the Wildcats in every facet of the game.
Fast forward to this year, and Arizona will upset UCLA.
For one thing, Tucson has been a house of horrors for the UCLA football program. The Bruins haven't beaten the Wildcats in Tucson since 2003. UCLA is also slated to start a very inexperienced secondary with little in the way of depth.
Those two aspects placed together don't exactly bode well for Mora's squad. Undoubtedly, the vaunted ZonaZoo student section will be in a chaotic frenzy. Rich Rodriguez and his high-octane offense should be able to put up a lot of points against UCLA's green set of defensive backs.
UCLA should win the game based on talent. Due to the factors listed above, Arizona will come away with an upset win.
Arizona 38, UCLA 34
Shaq Thompson (7) leads a stingy defense.
The matchup between Washington and UCLA will pit two teams against each other with similar trajectories. Both teams have lots of excitement surrounding their respective programs. The Huskies and the Bruins also have good amounts of young talent that should be showcased this season.
Washington's head coach Steve Sarkisian has done a nice job at upping the athleticism and length on the defensive side of the ball. Most notably, the Huskies' linebacker group—led by Shaq Thompson and John Timu—is very talented.
Senior quarterback Keith Price will lead what should be a pretty potent offense. Running back Bishop Sankey will help in taking pressure off the signal-caller. Additionally, Price has the massive luxury of throwing to elite tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
This will be a very interesting game. Looking at both squads, the winner will ultimately take control of the line of scrimmage. UCLA's defensive line should have a pretty good advantage over Washington's offensive line. Anthony Barr should be able to pressure Price early and often.
The fact that Washington is Mora's alma mater will only add intrigue to the game. It will be the first time that Mora has ever coached against the Huskies. UCLA has home-field advantage in this contest, and that will propel the Bruins to a victory.
UCLA 28, Washington 24
UCLA narrowly beat Arizona State last season.
This showdown at the end of the season could decide the winner of the Pac-12 South Division.
Upstart quarterback Taylor Kelly will command what should be a productive offense. The two-headed rushing attack of D.J. Foster and Marion Grice will be a handful to deal with.
Sutton, Jaxon Hood and Carl Bradford buoy a strong pass rush. Speedy 'backers such as Chris Young, Steffon Martin and Anthony Jones do a nice job at filling gaps. In the secondary, Alden Darby and Osahon Irabor lead a solid group.
This is Arizona State's year to make some noise in the conference. The defense is full of experience and speed. Offensively, head coach Todd Graham has a lot of weapons to his disposal.
The last two contests between Arizona State and UCLA have been decided by a combined three points. The Bruins have been fortunate enough to win both contests.
With this game being played at the Rose Bowl, the trend will continue.
UCLA 30, Arizona State 27
The Trojans had no answer for Anthony Barr last season.
Last season, the Bruins finally broke the hold that Southern Cal had on the crosstown rivalry, and defeated the Trojans by a score of 38-28.
The win was significant for a few reasons. Beating Southern Cal last season enabled the Bruins to clinch the Pac-12 South Division crown. More than that, the win meant something else. It signified that UCLA is on the precipice of making the rivalry competitive once again.
Lane Kiffin's group is plagued by a general lack of depth across the roster—especially on the offensive line. Clancy Pendergast was hired as the new defensive coordinator. He'll implement his 5-2 scheme, which should help to free up the Trojans' pass rushers.
Although there are depth concerns, this is still a very talented team. Marqise Lee is the best wide receiver in the entire country and sophomore defensive end Leonard Williams is a star in the making off of the edge.
UCLA's defensive line should have success against Southern Cal's offensive line. Conversely, Pendergast's defense should pose problems for the Bruins' spread offense.
This will be an emotional game. The Trojans will want to atone for last year and prove that they are in fact still the best team in Los Angeles. However, UCLA has become a mentally tougher football program under Mora.
UCLA also has more depth across the board, and that will be the difference.
UCLA 24, Southern Cal 21
Mora hopes to have a great 2013 season.
UCLA is one year away from exploding. In 2014, Brett Hundley and the majority of the offense will be experienced juniors.
The young defense will also be a year older. Specifically, the defensive line has a chance to be outstanding. The return of Owamagbe Odighizuwa, who will redshirt this season, should bolster a unit that will include Ellis McCarthy and Eddie Vanderdoes.
This upcoming season has the potential to be a good one. In terms of overall talent level, the Bruins rank in the top half of the conference. The reliance upon young players at pivotal positions will ultimately hurt the prospects of reaching a BCS bowl this season.
A 9-3 overall record is very feasible for this year.