Six Picks: Colorado at UCLA

CU punt returner Isaiah Oliver gives UCLA punter Adam Searl the stiff arm as he returns the ball deep into UCLA’s half during CU’s 20-10 victory over UCLA at Folsom Field Thursday, Nov. 4, 2016. (Phil McKenzie/CU Independent File)

After a rough loss in their Pac-12 opener, the Colorado Buffaloes football team will face another test Saturday when they travel to Pasadena for a matchup with the UCLA Bruins. We gathered six members of our sports staff and asked them how they think the game will play out.

Alex Pepper, sports staff writer: Last Saturday did not bode well for the Buffs. They fell hard to No. 6 Washington in a Pac-12 championship game rematch. Trailing only 10-7 at the half, Colorado looked within striking distance, but once again, mistakes started piling up. The Buffs let the game snowball out of control, and a pick six thrown by sophomore quarterback Steven Montez in the third quarter sealed the Buffaloes’ fate.

This week, going against a slightly weaker Pac-12 foe in UCLA, the Buffs look to bounce back. Stopping Heisman hopeful Josh Rosen will be the top priority for the Buffs. Rosen is averaging 450 yards passing through four games and started his season with an impressive 34 point comeback in week one against Texas A&M.

The CU secondary looked pretty solid against Washington quarterback Jake Browning last week, holding him to only 160 yards passing and a touchdown.

While I don’t expect them to hold Rosen to similar numbers, they’ve definitely showed that they can remain competitive against the best of quarterbacks. It’s worth noting that through their first four games, UCLA scored an imposing average of 45 points a game. The Buffs should be looking to exploit the weak defense of UCLA, who have allowed an average of 43 points a game and surrendered 58 to Stanford just a week ago.

While UCLA obviously shows a heavy leaning towards their offense, the Buffs might have to rely on their defense since the offense has been stalling as of late. I don’t expect CU’s offense to outdo UCLA’s air raid, but I do expect it to have success on the ground and in the air against a weaker defense. Hopefully, the secondary can come up with some big plays, as we all know Rosen is going to air it out 50 times.

With our offense finally having a chance to feast on a vulnerable defense, and our defense able to focus almost exclusively on UCLA’s passing attack, I’m taking the Buffs in this one.

Final Score: Colorado 38, UCLA 31

Kyle Rini, assistant sports editor: Lets try to focus on the positives here. CU came out of the gate strong against the mighty Huskies, and looked ready to give them a run for their money all the way into halftime. If the team can just cut back on all the “bonehead” mistakes that deflate their momentum, they’ll show that they’re better than Saturday’s final score indicates.   

I think this UCLA game will be a good chance to prove just that. The Bruins are a good team, but like the Buffs, they’ve got some glaring weaknesses prime for exploiting. Maybe even more so.

The Bruins come into this contest dead-last in the Pac-12 in total defense and rush defense, and second-to-last in scoring defense. They’ve given up 45+ points in all four of their games so far, and are averaging 524.8 yards surrendered per game. This is some James Harden level defense right here. 

The D is at its weakest against the rush, so expect senior tailback Phillip Lindsay to finally have the prolific game we’ve been waiting for. The Bruins are better against the pass, but Montez can recover from his three-interception performance by slowing it down and getting more time from his offensive line.

The Bruins are as bad at running the ball as they they are defending against it. Don’t expect tailback Bolu Olorunfunmi to have a pronounceable name, or a serious impact on Saturday. Do expect Rosen to air it out, and probably have success doing so, but also remember that CU’s secondary is still the strength of its defense.

Colorado will bounce back on the road for the upset victory, but it won’t be pretty.

Final Score: Colorado 35 UCLA 28

Drew Sharek, sports staff writer: The Buffaloes head into Pasadena this Saturday as seven point underdogs, but I think they’re capable of pulling off an upset.

There are plenty of holes in UCLA’s defense, especially against the run. They’ve allowed 307 rushing yards PER GAME — let that soak in for a bit. Colorado senior tailback Lindsay could smell blood in the Rose Bowl this weekend. The Denver native has 112 rushing yards per game at this point in the season and may be the driving force for the Colorado offense.

But the X-factor for the Buffaloes will be their secondary. Going against a high-caliber quarterback in Rosen, containing the pass will be a challenge for the Buffs. UCLA’s pass-heavy playstyle has enabled Rosen to score 16 touchdowns on 1763 yards passing so far. Colorado junior cornerback Isaiah Oliver once again has another tough test, after facing Dante Pettis in last Saturday’s defeat. UCLA senior wide-out Darren Andrews is second in the Pac-12 in touchdowns scored, with seven.

Andrews is one of Rosen’s favorite targets. He’s averaged eight receptions and 114.5 yards per game.

If Oliver shuts down another tough wide-out, and Lindsay can run like Ralphie, then the Buffs can win a tough road test in Pasadena. I see it happening, and I would take Colorado to win outright. This is an excellent underdog pick if you’re looking for one, as the current money line is at +230 if Colorado were to win. The over/under is at 68, which doesn’t come as a shock to many considering UCLA’s high powered offense. But Colorado’s defense can do enough not only to win it, but to also keep it below 68 total points. Take the under.

Final Score: Colorado 35, UCLA 28

Zoe Rath, sports staff writer: Last season when the Bruins came to Folsom Field, the Buffs didn’t play the way they should have. Three interceptions and a fumble came from the offense, and the defense had fewer tackles than their opponents. It was a sloppy game, but the Buffs eventually pulled out a 20-10 win. After the painful loss to Washington last Saturday, the Buffs need to step up their game if they are looking to go to a bowl game.

The defense is getting better, but the intensity that it had at the beginning of the season is starting to fizzle out. The loss to Washington brought the defense back to reality, since the Huskies were the hardest team the Buffs faced. But the biggest worry is how well Montez will play. He is improving every game he plays, but he needs more experience. If Montez can be protected and get the ball downfield while the defense pressures the Bruins offense, it will be a turn around game to last week.

Final score: Colorado 21, UCLA 10

Justin Guerriero, Head Sports Editor: To me, the Buffaloes are a better collective team than the Bruins. However, a key in this matchup will be to what extent the Buffs allow UCLA to compete neck and neck with them. I’m not saying that this game should or will be a blowout, as I’m sure will be reflected in my score prediction below.

Rather, will Montez and the offense be firing on all cylinders? Will Colorado make the Bruins pay for their mistakes and mishaps?

The Buffs absolutely should have beaten Washington last week. Despite the rain cloud that’s been allowed to linger over this team, in part due to the eight lost starters on defense and the somewhat shaky first three weeks to this season, the Buffaloes are an extremely talented team. Colorado has the components on the field to compete with, and defeat, great Pac-12 football teams. But whether or not the Buffaloes are going to fully awaken and play as a team as talented as them should remains to be seen.

Montez has spread the ball to the likes of the Blackout Boyz, and Lindsay has been a nice weapon for Colorado. But as of yet, no one has exploded into a real, impact player. I realize that the team has only played one conference game, but I think the Buffaloes are going to play tougher, closer games this season.

This team needs to prove it can get down and dirty and win a dog fight.

Colorado vs. UCLA is a good opportunity for Montez and Co. to shine. If that happens, I think the Buffs could beat the Bruins with relative comfort.

Final score: Colorado 27, UCLA 17.

Jack Stern, staff sports writer: It’s no secret that both teams playing in this game are desperate for a win. The Colorado Buffaloes are coming off a blowout by the Washington Huskies, while the Bruins are coming off an embarrassing defeat at the hands of a divisional rival Stanford Cardinals.

The Bruins defense has struggled mightily so far, ranking dead last in the Pac-12. If the Buffs are going to get their offensive attack going at full strength, this is most definitely the week to do it. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to execute and move the ball down the field at a consistent rate, while establishing a multi-dimensional attack.

On UCLA’s sideline, Rosen-led Bruins offense looked great thus far, and has putt up bundles of points at a time. Having a quarterback of Rosen’s caliber automatically gives a team a great chance to win any game. Aside from lockdown corner Oliver, the Buffs secondary looked somewhat shaky last week, getting beat on the deep ball on several occasions. But running back Sosa Jamabo finally looked in mid-season form after his first 100 yard effort of the season last week. With the Buffs consistent inability to stop the run, UCLA should try to pound the ball and establish a balanced offensive attack to keep the defense guessing.

Overall, I see this being a high scoring, shootout type game that the Bruins win due to their high-octane offense.

Final Score: UCLA 41, Colorado 31

Contact Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at justin.guerriero@colorado.edu

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Kyle Rini at kyle.rini@colorado.edu

Contact sports writer Jack Stern at jack.stern@colorado.edu

Contact sports writer Zoe Rath at zoe.rath@colorado.edu

Contact sports writer Alex Pepper at alex.pepper@colorado.edu

Contact sports writer Drew Sharek at drew.sharek@colorado.edu

CU Independent

The CU Independent, or CUI for short, is the student news outlet for the University of Colorado at Boulder. We cover news, sports, politics, opinion, arts and entertainment and more. Our mission is to provide news and commentary that's for students and by students — about the things we care about.

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