We continue to look at some of the marquee nonconference games involving Pac-12 teams in 2016. Next up: UCLA
Opponent: Texas A&M
Date of matchup: Saturday, Sept. 3
Location: College Station, Texas
Matchup to watch for: UCLA should be very good at offensive tackle with Conor McDermott and Kolton Miller providing a pair of 6-foot-9 bookends, but they won't play against a better pair of defensive ends in 2016 than Garrett and Hall. That pair combined for 19.5 sacks last year.
Garrett, a true junior, is a near-certain top-10 pick in the 2017 NFL draft, and he could go No. 1 overall. Hall is likely to get selected early in the draft. They will be eager to make a mark in the season opener against Bruins QB Josh Rosen, whom both probably will be chasing around for years to come in the NFL.
McDermott, a senior who seriously considered entering the draft after last season, is well aware of Garrett and Hall's status. He knows if he can handle Garrett and/or Hall, he boosts his draft stock. Same goes for Miller, a sophomore.
Last year, Arizona State's weakest position was offensive tackle, and that made for a long day against the Garrett and Hall. UCLA is hoping it can at least get a stalemate in this strength-on-strength matchup.
Area of weakness that UCLA could exploit: Texas A&M is deep and talented at receiver. In fact, it might be the nation's deepest and most talented crew at the position. Question is, however, can the Aggies get them the ball against an experienced UCLA secondary?
After a thoroughly dysfunctional year -- on and off the field -- Texas A&M's offense went through a massive transition in the offseason. Noel Mazzone is the new offensive coordinator -- yeah, that Noel Mazzone who coordinated UCLA's offense the previous four years -- and Jim Turner returned to College Station to lead an offensive line that underachieved last year and has some holes to fill.
Quarterback? Former super-recruit tandem Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray both opted to transfer, so the starter will either be Trevor Knight or Jake Hubenak. Knight is a transfer from Oklahoma who lost his starting job to Baker Mayfield but was good enough to start 15 games for the Sooners and beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl after the 2013 season. Hubenak is a former walk-on who started his career at Oklahoma State, but he played well in a losing effort to Louisville in the Music City Bowl.
The Bruins' defense certainly isn't devoid of questions, and obviously Mazzone knows the ins and outs of their personnel. But in year two under coordinator Tom Bradley, UCLA probably feels pretty good about its chances with the Aggies' offense.
Of course, considering how weak UCLA's run defense was last year, know that Texas A&M is going to run early and often in the hopes it can duplicate the physical domination Nebraska pulled off in the Foster Farms Bowl last season.
What's at stake? For Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, who went from hot national coaching prospect to hot seat in two seasons, he needs to win at home to get Aggies fans back in his corner.
This is a huge game for him in advance of the SEC slate because the thinking will be if you can't beat UCLA at home, how can you hope to compete in the SEC?
For UCLA, the bad taste of losing three of four to end the 2015 season would be erased by a road win against an SEC team. Also, if Rosen has a big game against a tough Aggies pass rush, that certainly would bolster him as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Finally, it's the SEC vs. the Pac-12, the nation's best football conference and the conference that thinks the SEC is full of it. Pac-12 folks often talk about how those tough SEC defenses are tough because they don't face A-list QBs. Well, Rosen is the A-list-est of A-list QBs, so that theory will be tested by this game.