Alright Beavers fans, UCLA are 3-0 right now. We should be worried about the Beavers chances on Saturday right? Well no, at least no more than you should usually be worried about a beavers game played in the month of September. Yes, UCLA has as of yet failed to lose a football game; and yes they’ve put up some nice scores in the first three games. There are some things that should give Beavers fans hope heading into the second game of the season. The Bruins of UCLA have yet to play a Pac-12 game this season; effectively they’ve just completed their preseason. Bruins coach Jim Mora Jr. can tell you all about undefeated preseasons not extending into the regular season. In 2009, as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, Mora led his team to a 4-0 record in the preseason only to finish the regular season 5-11. Mora lost his job following that season. Obviously the preseason in the NFL is a different beast from the NCAA preseason. NFL coaches try to make sure not to show much of what they have in their playbooks in the preseason and try to make sure as many players play in the game as they can. NCAA coaches have to put their teams in the best position to win, even in the preseason. Every game counts in college so the teams have to play all out as they try to build a good resume for the bowl games. Still it’s worth noting that preseason success does not always extend in to a league schedule.
UCLA’s high powered offense is led by senior running back Johnathan Franklin. Franklin leads the NCAA in rushing with over 500 rushing yards through three games. He is also currently the running back with the fourth highest career rushing yards among active players. If Franklin is fourth, which active runner has the most rushing yards? That would be Wisconsin’s Montee Ball. The Beavers held Ball to 61 yards on 15 carries. They hope to continue that kind of success against Franklin and the UCLA runners.
The Beavers defense was impressive overall in the game against Wisconsin, not just against the run. They held Wisconsin to just over 200 yards of offense and forced two turnovers. They didn’t allow a score of any kind until the Badgers managed to score a touchdown with 1:31 left in the game. Unfortunately for the Beavers, that cut their lead to three points and forced them to recover an onside kick to win the game. The Beavers offense put up over 300 yards in the game against Wisconsin; unfortunately they were only able to put up ten points. They kicked a 43-yard field goal in the second quarter and then scored a touchdown on the first drive of the second half. Other than those two drives, the Beavers were unable to put up points. They turned the ball over on downs four times and missed a field goal.
Quarterback Sean Mannion was able to complete 62% of his passes against Wisconsin, on route to a 276-yard passing day. He’s going to need more help from his running game if the Beavers are going to beat UCLA on Saturday. If the Beavers defense can play like it did against Wisconsin, they’ll be in a good position to win. Then it depends on how much improvement the offense is able to make. Another touchdown or two would make a huge difference in the Beavers chances. If they are able to come out and overcome the fact that they haven’t been able to build a rhythm, having only played one football game, I’d expect them to win in what should be a close game.