UCLA Football: 3 Games That Could Ruin the 2014 Season for the Bruins
There are three opponents in particular with the ability to upend a potentially special season for Jim Mora and the UCLA football team.
Two of these contests exist on the road. One will test the Bruins' ability to not only travel a great distance, but to also compete against a less-than-ideal start time. The other road game will feature a daunting home crowd in addition to adverse weather conditions.
Lastly, UCLA could theoretically be facing its biggest rival for a division championship. A loss in such an affair would likely rival a punch to the proverbial stomach.
Here are three games that could ruin the 2014 season for the Bruins.
If one were to look at this game on paper, UCLA should win handily.
Virginia went 2-10 last year. Heading into this season, head coach Mike London has a team expected to field a new starting quarterback. The team is also battling injuries at key positions, among other things.
Regardless, this game does have the potential to be a tricky proposition for Mora's team.
For one, UCLA will have to travel to the complete opposite side of the country. The game time is slated to begin at noon ET. This equates to a 9 a.m. start for the Bruins. As London noted, Virginia is also an experienced bunch.
The season-opener is also a crapshoot in many instances. Early in the season (as is the case with virtually every squad), both teams likely will experience mental mistakes (in terms of penalties and blown assignments).
UCLA has a clear advantage from a depth and overall talent standpoint. However, a potential loss here would be disastrous for a team with such high expectations heading into the year.
The contest in Seattle versus the Huskies is the ultimate trap game.
This game is sandwiched between the homecoming game versus Arizona and the crosstown showdown versus Southern Cal. Although the coaches will do everything in their power to prevent against it, UCLA could be looking a bit ahead to the game against the Trojans—especially if there are potential Pac-12 South Division title implications.
Seattle weather in November most likely won't be great. It will probably be wet and cold. These are conditions that favor the home team.
From a talent perspective, Washington is impressive. There are stars on every level of the defense (Danny Shelton, Shaq Thompson, Marcus Peters) to go along with dangerous skill players (Jaydon Mickens, John Ross, Kasen Williams).
Chris Petersen is also incredibly unpredictable as a a play-caller. One never knows when he'll pull a trick out from his vast bag of magic. To add some intrigue, it will be the first time Mora has coached against his alma mater in Seattle.
This should be a very close and highly entertaining game.
For the fans of the UCLA football program, I'm sure every loss to Southern Cal feels like a disaster.
In terms of this upcoming season, it's perhaps the first in years in which both teams are truly battling for supremacy of the city—and a division title.
With the amount of success in the past two years, there is considerable buzz surrounding Mora's team. Coupled with the fact UCLA has beaten Southern Cal in two straight years, the Bruins are on the cusp of truly being the team in Los Angeles.
A win (and a potential Pac-12 South title) would further cement the argument. A loss against the hated foe would squelch the premise effectively. Additionally, a defeat could help to give Sarkisian even more ammunition on the recruiting trails.