CUI sports staff picks: Colorado vs. UCLA

 

An aerial battle for the ball between CU Defensive Backs Isaiah Oliver, Tedric Thompson and UCLA Reciever Jordan Lasley during CU’s 20-10 victory over UCLA at Folsom Field on Thursday, Nov. 3 2016. (Phillip Mckenzie/CU Independent)

This Friday at 7 p.m. MST, the Colorado Buffaloes host the UCLA Bruins at Folsom Field in Boulder to kick off the beginning of Pac-12 Conference play for both schools. In light of the impending matchup, the CU Independent sports section weighed in on the game and gave score predictions.

Zoe Collins Rath, assistant sports editor: Every team has a goal to get to a winning season or at least get to a bowl game. For the Buffs, the odds of that happening increase heavily if they beat UCLA.

Both teams have not played any other team in the conference and the odds are in CU’s favor to win because UCLA has not won a game yet. UCLA has been trying to find an offensive groove so the Bruins likely spent the bye week focusing on their offense.

However, the Buffs could be in trouble if they get complacent. The only challenge that they have had so far this season was Nebraska and the team continued to put in work to get better. Against CSU and New Hampshire, it was not even a contest. Pac-12 Conference play is supposed to make the Buffs better. Against UCLA, it may not look like a contest because they could just be another team in front of the Buff’s winning season.

The last time the Buffs and Bruins played each other, UCLA came out on top with a 27-23 win. If the Buffs want to have a winning season, they need to dominate UCLA and go 4-0.

Score prediction: Colorado: 36, UCLA 24

 

Max Troderman, sports writerBoth the Buffs and the Bruins head into Friday’s matchup looking for their first conference win of the year. However, while the Buffs sit at 3-0, the Bruins sit exactly opposite with a 0-3 record. Now, one could argue that UCLA played slightly better football programs in their first three matchups, which is a fair argument, but at the end of the day, wins count, not arguments.

An interesting thing to note is that since 2011, Colorado has lost six out of seven games to the Bruins. This matchup feels very different than it has in the past. Maybe it’s because the teams’ records are usually opposite each other at this point or maybe it’s because junior quarterback Steven Montez and the Buffs actually look like bowl contenders this year.

Whatever it is, this game will be pivotal for both teams involved. It could catapult Colorado to a whole new level of confidence and prove that they can win in conference play, not just against secondary teams like CSU and New Hampshire. For UCLA, it could put a stop to this three-game slide and give them back a shot at doing well this season. However, if UCLA loses and drops to a 0-4 record heading into a matchup with No. 11 Washington next week, that could be the end of their season.

Score prediction: Colorado: 35, UCLA 21

 

Scott MacDonald, sports writerAfter a strong 3-0 start in the non-conference, ‘preseason’ portion of the schedule, the Buffs will look to open up Pac-12 play with a 1-0 record. Colorado will certainly have a good chance to do so against Chip Kelly’s struggling UCLA Bruins, who will march into Folsom Field on Friday sporting an 0-3 record.

While, yes, the Bruins have been very mediocre this season, they’ve had an objectively harder three non-conference games, perhaps none harder than taking on the No. 6-ranked Oklahoma Sooners in week two. In total, the Bruins’ first three opponents have combined for a  total record of 10-1, while comparatively, Colorado’s first three adversaries have combined for a meager 1-10 mark.

That being said, I’d give the Bruins a little benefit of the doubt. The Buffs would be unwise to overlook what could actually be a pretty dangerous UCLA team. With the Bruins refusing to name a starting quarterback, Colorado’s capable defense will be put to the test as the team must once again prepare for the unknown.

It will either be Michigan senior transfer and noted pocket-passer, Wilton Speight; or the shifty, ever-mobile running quarterback and true freshman, Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

Since Speight is recovering from a back injury, it’s probably a safe bet that Thompson-Robinson gets the starting nod Friday night which may spell some trouble for the Buffs defense. For comparison’s sake, Thompson-Robinson can be viewed as a similar opponent to Nebraska’s true freshman quarterback, Adrian Martinez, who the Buffs faced in earlier this season.

In that game, the Buffs defense allowed Martinez, a quarterback, to run for 117 yards and two touchdowns.

If Thompson-Robinson indeed gets the start on Friday, I think UCLA may actually be able to put up some points on the Buffs’ largely-unchallenged defense. I think it will be a closer game than most might expect.

Score prediction: Colorado 41, UCLA 27

 

Alex Pepper, sports writer: Finally, the bye week is coming to a close and we can actually play some football again. While I’m excited to see the Buffs return to the field, I’m worried that CU’s 3-0 start combined with the bye week could make the Buffaloes complacent.

While UCLA has yet to tally a win on the season, head coach Mike MacIntyre and his Buffaloes must know that Pac-12 play is a completely different animal. The good news, however, is that this one is at home. With the number of people who showed up for the New Hampshire game, I expect even more for this UCLA game. The house should be packed with eager Buffs fans who want to see their team start the season 4-0 for the first time since 1998.

I think Colorado will win, but the desperate Bruins should give us a run for our money. If the Buffs win Friday night, the teams they’ve beat would have only one combined win, proving that the real tests are still ahead for this surging Buffaloes squad.

Score prediction: Colorado 38, UCLA 31

 

Justin Guerriero, head sports editor: I’m not particularly worried about the Buffs being complacent heading into this game vs. the Bruins. I think Colorado has had a solid bye week combined with good practices. My main concern is the defense’s ability to deal with a mobile quarterback like Thompson-Robinson.

That said, UCLA’s offensive line has allowed 12 sacks through three games thus far, so expect the Buffs’ defensive front seven to look to exploit any and all weaknesses on the Bruins’ offensive line.

Once again, Colorado’s offensive tempo will likely do much to determine how the game is played early on. Senior tailback Travon McMillian came off a monster performance vs. New Hampshire, where he rushed for 163 yards on 15 carries while finding the end zone twice. The Buffs’ offense through the air speaks for itself. Montez, sophomore wideout Laviska Shenault, Jr. and. Co. are going to give UCLA’s secondary a tough task come Friday.

Overall, I think Colorado’s offense is primed to put on a show against Pac-12 competition. While I certainly don’t expect UCLA to go down without a fight, I think CU will win comfortably.

Score prediction: Colorado 40, UCLA 24

Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Zoe Collins Rath at zoe.collinsrath@colorado.edu.

Contact CU Independent Sports Writer Max Troderman at max.troderman@colorado.edu.

Contact CUI Sports Writer Scott MacDonald at scott.macdonald@colorado.edu.

Contact CU Independent Sports Writer Alex Pepper at alexander.pepper@colorado.edu.

Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at justin.guerriero@colorado.edu and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo.

Justin Guerriero

Justin Guerriero is a senior managing editor for the CUI from Pittsburgh, PA, who fell in love with the mountains upon touring CU Boulder for the first time prior to his freshman year. He studies broadcast production with minors in history and communication. Follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo

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