UCLA vs. Virginia prediction, in-depth game preview
By PETE FIUTAK
The UCLA Bruins welcome the Virginia Cavaliers to the Rose Bowl to open the 2015 college football season. The nation will get its first look at Bruins true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen, who will face a solid Cavaliers secondary. Can the 'Hoos rattle the young gun and make it a game? Below is the UCLA vs. Virginia prediction and game preview.
Game Time: 3:30 ET
Venue: Rose Bowl
Why You Need To Care
At least for the time being, it'll be the Rosen Bowl.
The Bruins are about to begin the Josh Rosen era, as the ballyhooed true freshman quarterback takes center stage in Westwood. Rosen could be the missing link for Jim Mora's program, which has enough proven talent everywhere else to win the Pac-12 and even flirt with playoff contention. UCLA underachieved versus Virginia in last year's opener before escaping with a 28-20 victory in Charlottesville.
The Cavaliers will be playing this season to save the job of head coach Mike London. London is just 23-38 over five years, and was given a surprising reprieve from AD Craig Littlepage after going 5-7 in 2014. UVa also has Notre Dame and Boise State this month as part of one of the most grueling September schedules among FBS schools.
Why Virginia Will Win
The 'Hoos have a dynamite defensive backfield, so Rosen will endure an early test in his first college game. Virginia is loaded on the back end, with S Quin Blanding and CB Maurice Canady leading the way, so Bruin receivers won't enjoy much of a cushion. UVa QB Matt Johns, to the contrary, will be facing a Bruin D still searching for pass rushers—other than speedy OLB Deon Hollins—who can consistently pressure the pocket.
Why UCLA Will Win
Rosen won't have to do too much on Saturday, because RB Paul Perkins is capable of carrying the offense if needed. Perkins is a true workhorse and one of the better backs in the Pac-12. Plus, he'll be attacking a retooled Virginia front seven that could get shoved around by the Bruins' best O-line in many years. Johns may not feel much heat, but he'll have a tough time solving a deep and gifted UCLA secondary.
Player Who Matters
While Virginia wants to establish the run, there isn't going to be much daylight for Taquan Mizzell and the rest of the team's backs. The Bruins are very strong up the middle this year, with LB Myles Jack and tackles Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes quickly filling gaps. Longtime Penn State coordinator Tom Bradley inherited a defense that should be far more consistent than it was in 2014.
What's Going To Happen?
Rosen will be the main storyline this weekend. But he won't be the reason that UCLA gets off to a fast start in 2015. The tough running of Perkins and a defensive unit that will shut down the Cavaliers will spark the Bruins. The Bruins have ample talent on D to go along with a proven coordinator capable of finally maximizing all of the unit's potential.
UCLA 31, Virginia 10, Line: UCLA -19.5, o/u: 53.5
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