Friday, November 18, 2011
Five things to watch: Colorado at UCLA
By Peter Yoon
1. SHALL BRUINS COME TO PASS?
UCLA makes its living running the ball, but might be well-served to try and get the passing game going against Colorado. The Buffaloes have had several issues in the secondary because of injuries and suspensions and have used a different defensive backfield in each of the past five games. They rank No. 101 in the nation in pass defense and have given up 300 yards or more through the air in three consecutive games. UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince has been up and down as a passer this season but against a struggling Colorado pass defense, it might be worth the risk of taking some chances.
2. A RUSH TO STOP THE RUN
The Colorado rushing attack hasn't been able to muster much this season with an average of only 110.64 yards per game on the ground, which is good for No. 104 in the nation. That doesn't mean much against a UCLA defense, which has allowed below-average running teams to dominate on the ground. San Jose State (No. 108 in the nation) had 202 yards rushing against the Bruins, Arizona (No. 117) had 254 yards rushing against UCLA, Arizona State (No. 75) had 201 and Utah (No. 79) had 224. UCLA is No. 95 in the nation against the run and must not allow another average team to run wild.
3. DEFENSIVE STRUGGLE
This game is a matchup of defenses that have had problems getting teams off the field and keeping opponents out of the end zone. Both are ranked in the bottom 13 in the nation in third down defense (UCLA is No. 115; Colorado is No. 107) and they are two of the nation's worst teams in terms of allowing first downs (UCLA is No. 108 in the nation, allowing 23.4 first downs per game; Colorado is No. 115 with 24.36 first downs allowed per game). Statistics such as those would point to a shootout looming, especially considering Colorado gives up 37.82 points a game and UCLA gives up 31.4. Colorado has given up 31 points or more nine times this season. UCLA has given up that many points five times.
4. COLORADO CONNECTIONS
There are all kinds of subplots going on in the game. Rick Neuheisel is facing the team that gave him his first head coaching job. UCLA receiver Taylor Embree is facing his father, Colorado coach Jon Embree, who is a close personal friend of Neuheisel. UCLA's Josh Smith and Kai Maiava transferred from Colorado so they will be facing their former teammates as will Colorado receiver Paul Richardson, who transferred from UCLA. Colorado will be trying to end a 22-game losing streak in games outside of its home state and UCLA is playing for bowl eligibility and to stay in the driver's seat for a berth in the Pac-12 title game. Add in the fact that it will be senior day--the last home game for UCLA's seniors--and it could become an emotional overload for many of those involved. Controlling those emotions will be a key to winning the game.
5. RAMBLIN' RODNEY
Although Colorado's rushing attack isn't all that potent over all, the Buffaloes feature one of the premier all-around running backs in the nation in Rodney Stewart, who is the school's all-time leader in total yards with 4,670. He has 742 yards rushing and 525 yards receiving this season, making him the only player in the nation with at least 500 yards in each category entering this week's games. He also has 239 yards in kick returns and is coming off of a 181-yard, three-touchdown rushing performance last week against Arizona. He also passed for a touchdown in that game, so it's pretty clear that he can do it all and the Bruins will have to stop him to have success.