Now that I have predicted the game-by-game fates of that institution of higher learning located just south of downtown L.A., I reckon it’s high time that the same be done for my collegiate alma mater located twelve miles to the west.
Let’s just get to it, how I see each game unfolding and what I see the results being for the University of California, Los Angeles.
Better known to Bruin Nation as UCLA:
* Virginia – Rose Bowl, September 5th:
Widely known as a top-notch academic university whose football team is generally not considered on the same level as Florida State and Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference, these Cavaliers from Charlottesville gave the Bruins a bit of a scare last year as they did a good job containing the UCLA offense, the Bruin defense bailing them out with pick-sixes.
I really don’t see that happening again at home as true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen’s debut should end up a good one.
* UNLV – Las Vegas, NV, September 12th:
If these two schools were meeting in basketball at the Thomas & Mack Center instead of football at Sam Boyd Stadium, I’d be quite concerned as the Rebels have long been known for their success in hoops.
This is football, however, and with UNLV coming off a two-win season and breaking in a new coach – from the high school ranks, no less – this is the only real “gimme” game on the Bruins’ schedule.
And on top of everything else, as far as UCLA fans are concerned it will certainly be a great weekend trip to a town that I call “Disneyland For Adults”.
* BYU – Rose Bowl, September 19th:
I’d be a bit worried if this game were in Provo, UT, as those Cougars have given the Bruins fits in recent times.
Quarterback Taysom Hill, much like UCLA’s just graduated Brett Hundley, can win games with his legs as well as his arm, and the torn ACL and broken leg he suffered last year more or less took the wind out of BYU’s sails as they managed to win eight games despite that.
He is a concern, and the Bruins will subsequently be challenged, but the home field factor will be the difference and UCLA will prevail.
* Arizona – Tucson, AZ, September 26th:
COMPETITVE, BUT A LOSS
The last time the Bruins played in Tucson (resulting in a win) notwithstanding, they have always had a difficult time with U of A’s Wildcats in their place; memories of disastrous outings, which I don’t care to elaborate on, are playing in my head as I write this.
This will be Rosen’s first real road test; the first time he will face a hostile crowd.
While I don’t think he’ll completely tank, and I don’t think UCLA will be blown out, I just see this game as the one in which he will be making the freshman mistakes that every knowledgeable fan should expect.
Plus Arizona has talent and will be looking to avenge that 10-7 loss to the Bruins last season.
UCLA Bruin junior linebacker Myles Jack (#30), who will be an essential key to the team this year.
* Arizona State – Rose Bowl, October 3rd:
A CLOSE WIN IN A TOUGH, HARD FOUGHT GAME
Though they haven’t gotten as much national, ESPN-type love as UCLA, like the Bruins these Sun Devils are coming off back-to-back ten-win seasons and have much depth and experience.
Unlike UCLA, they have experience at quarterback in the form of senior Mike Bercovici, whose last second Hail Mary touchdown pass to beat USC in the Coliseum last season will always be remembered fondly by the ASU faithful.
As for this year, I would be very surprised if those Sun Devils weren’t looking to return the favor for the Bruins putting up 62 points on them in their house.
That’s why I see this game as a war between two evenly matched opponents, with the home field and crowd – as the UCLA students will be back in school and subsequently filling the student section at the Rose Bowl – being the deciding factor.
* Stanford – Palo Alto, CA, October 15th (Thursday):
For UCLA’s football team and Bruin Nation – the entire UCLA community, really – it has been a most frustrating experience with regards to this Cardinal bunch as twice in the last three seasons, Stanford has denied the Bruins the Pac-12 South title in beating them at home, including last year’s 31-10 humiliation which saw Stanford more or less push UCLA around.
The Bruins haven’t tasted victory over the Cardinal since 2008, being the dubious owners of a seven game losing streak to them, and as much as I absolutely hate to say it…
While they will undoubtedly be motivated on a pronounced scale and while I don’t see a woodshed-style beat down as the game will be competitive, I don’t think 2015 will be the year UCLA ends their Stanford drought.
* California – Rose Bowl, October 22nd (Thursday):
I’ve always enjoyed this battle between the two flagship schools in the University of California system; I haven’t missed the Bruins vs. their older Golden Bear brothers in the Rose Bowl in 24 years.
These Berkeley guys have units that are virtually polar opposites of each other; their offense being of the high-flying type that scores a lot of points and is fun to watch, which led the Bears to increase their win total from one in 2013 to five last year,
While their defense gives up as many points as their offense scores, which was a big reason why the fans on Tightwad Hill above Cal’s stadium in Strawberry Canyon saw those Golden Bears blow a chance at bowl eligibility in losing their last two games.
As such, UCLA’s secondary is more than capable of containing Cal’s passing game, even with Ishmael Adams being suspended indefinitely.
That’s why I see this as a comfortable, if not convincing, win.
* Colorado – Rose Bowl, October 31st:
Even though these Buffaloes from Boulder’s record since joining the Pac-12 is an embarrassing 10-39, they could have easily won five, maybe six games in 2014 as many of their losses were close.
The Bruins can attest to that, CU taking them to two overtimes at Folsom Field the last time the two teams met before Hundley scored the winning touchdown.
The Buffs have young players who got much-needed experience last season, and while they’re the only team in the Pac-12 South who has no chance at winning that division, with a few breaks they could be in contention for a bowl game.
As for their chances of beating UCLA in the Rose Bowl, on Homecoming, and on Halloween to boot, I’ve got two words in regards to that:
The Victory Bell, which has gone to the winner of the UCLA vs USC game since 1942, is painted either blue or cardinal depending on who wins, and has been the Bruins’ since 2012.
*Oregon State – Corvallis, OR, November 7th:
I’m sure that all of Bruin Nation is glad that Oregon’s powerful and mighty Ducks are off UCLA’s schedule for the next couple of years as Phil Knight University hasn’t been good to the Bruins in recent years, 2007 being the last time UCLA defeated them.
I’m also sure that Bruin Nation is glad that their football team will be facing Oregon’s Civil War rivals as the Beavers are starting over with a new coach, a new culture, a new offense; heck, a new everything.
In situations such as what Oregon State will be going through, it takes time for things to gel and results to materialize.
That’s why the Bruins will be among the teams that will take advantage and handle the orange and black-clad Beavers quite nicely.
And speaking of orange and black, it would have been perfect if this game were held at the Rose Bowl one week before, what with Halloween and all.
* Washington State – Rose Bowl, November 14th:
I would have said “See Oregon State” as far as what UCLA’s chances are against these Cougars in the Palouse except that Wazzu has a coach, Mike Leach, that has been at his current job a few years unlike at OSU.
So far it hasn’t worked out that well for Leach as Washington State is 12-25 under him; those Cougs haven’t had a winning season in eleven years and it doesn’t look like that will change this year.
Plus being that it’s UCLA’s last home game, with the seniors being honored,
I don’t see the Bruins having much trouble.
* Utah – Salt Lake City, UT, November 21st:
WINNABLE, BUT I’M GOING TO CALL THIS A TOSS-UP
Since the Pac-12 expanded in 2011, no team has evoked more respect from me than those red-clad Utes from Salt Lake City as they have split the four conference games played between them and UCLA.
Utah is tough and feisty with a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude that has made them an asset to the Pac-12 on the gridiron; the Bruins have felt that attitude, including that 30-28 heartbreaker at home last season.
I see a tougher match this year at Rice-Eccles Stadium, with that intense Ute crowd. The talent is there for both sides – Utah running back Devontae Booker finished second to UCLA’s Paul Perkins with 1,512 yards rushing – which will make this game a real, “It will come down to who wants it more and who gets the breaks in the end” battle.
Hopefully it will be the Bruins who want it more and get those breaks.
* USC – Coliseum, November 28th:
TO BE DETERMINED THE WEEK OF THE GAME
Since 2008, when I started covering UCLA football online, I’ve never made any predictions whatsoever as to how I saw the annual Crosstown Rivalry unfolding until the week the game is played.
And I will not start now.
All my fellow members of Bruin Nation will simply need to wait until Wednesday, November 25th – the day before Thanksgiving – to see what I think will go down at this 85th renewal and whether or not the Victory Bell will remain blue or changed to red (or “Cardinal” as those Trojans say).
It will be a part of the extensive coverage that will be featured on this site during Rivalry Week, complete with features, a preview of the game and predictions.
I know I should be impartial on this site/blog of mine, but I’m going to break that and say two more words in an illustration of being a proud UCLA alum (class of 1991) and an objective but dedicated fan of all things True Blue and Gold:
The Bruin Bear statue on the UCLA campus, erected as part of the UCLA Alumni Association’s 50th Anniversary in 1984