UCLA's running game provides a major hurdle for the Utes' defense this Saturday and based on their past two games, it could get ugly. Mostly because UCLA has a fantastic running back that might blow through Utah's defensive line like a tornado through a trailer park. I'm talking about Kahlil Bell, and he's looking like a force for an inconsistent Bruins offense. You think I'm kidding? Take a look at his stats through two games.
Ok, so he didn't run nearly as well against BYU, but his season total on the ground so far is 274 yards, 183 more yards than Utah's total combined! Ouch. I also think the Cougars have a far better defense than Utah -- especially a run defense. Utah's defensive line is probably closer to that of Stanford's than they are the Cougars', which won't bode well for Saturday afternoon. Just look at how poorly the Utes defended the run against Oregon State and Air Force.
In each game, Utah was dominated pretty much by one player. Against the Beavers it was Yvenson Bernard, who ran for 165 yards on 29 carries and against Air Force, quarterback Shaun Carney had 113 yards -- including a 53 yard run that positioned the Falcons for a much needed score.
What this tells us is that UCLA should have their way on the ground. And since Ben Olson does not look like the answer at quarterback, expect Bell to ring Utah's defense (those damn puns are perfect). That most likely means the Bruins will grind it out and dominate the time of possession.
I think it's important that the offense plays well, or the defense will tire too easy and give up a lot on the ground. If the offense can control the clock, move the ball and give the defense rest, they should be capable of keeping Bell somewhat in check. It's not going to be an easy task and the only way it becomes doable is if Utah's defense does not spend a big bulk of the game on the field. Give them rest and just maybe they'll surprise us and stop the Bruins' running attack. If they can force Olson to the air, Saturday's game could become competitive. Is that likely? Well who knows, but here's hoping!