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Utah Opponent Preview: UCLA Offense

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Utah's defense will be keyed in on Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley this Saturday, as the junior signal caller leads the Bruins in the Rose Bowl.

UCLA quarterback and Heisman candidate Bretty Hundley leads his eighth-ranked Bruins against Utah on Saturday.
UCLA quarterback and Heisman candidate Bretty Hundley leads his eighth-ranked Bruins against Utah on Saturday.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The UCLA offense goes as junior quarterback Brett Hundley goes. The Heisman Trophy hopeful is considered the most valuable player on the UCLA offense and one of the best in the country. Bruins nation saw first hand versus Texas that the Noel Mazzone's high-paced spread offense doesn't run quite as well with their number one signal caller on the sidelines. Back on the field again, and looking to continue their season undefeated, Hundley will lead his potent offense, which is averaging 38 points per game, against the Utes in the Rose Bowl this Saturday.

There has been some concern with the offensive line, giving up 13 sacks so far this season. However, according to Hundley, the Bruin offensive line seems to be hitting their stride.

"They just meshed, and did their thing out there." Hundley said. "They just executed really well."

The offensive line seemed to come together last Saturday versus Arizona State, as Hundley led UCLA's 62-27 win over the Sun Devils. The question may get answered this week, was it more the Bruin offensive line, or was the Sun Devil defensive line not as strong as the other opponents UCLA faced this year? A cohesive offensive line keeping Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week Hundley from getting pressured and creating holes for the running back is a key for this offense.

Hitting those holes at running back is sophomore Paul Perkins. Perkins is the Bruins feature back this season, and he is approaching his rushing total from last year with 460 yards so far. He's carrying the load in the Bruin backfield, averaging 110 yards a game this season. He also has accounted for two of the six rushing touchdowns for the Bruins this season. Hundley is second on the team in rushing with 202 yards, proving he's a threat to run when the opportunity presents itself, but leaves most of the rushing yards to Perkins. As in previous seasons, Utah will need to contain Hundley, perhaps even assign a spy should the Bruins' QB decide to make a run for it.

Hundley has passing targets all over the field. His favorite seems to be junior wide receiver Jordan Payton, who leads the team in receiving this year (417 yards receiving), has three touchdowns, and is averaging 104 yards per game. Sophomore Thomas Duarte, junior Devin Fuller, and junior Devin Lucien are three more big targets at wide out giving Hundley options to spread the ball around. Even freshman Eldridge Massington had a huge catch and run against ASU last week, which he took for a touchdown. Just as with Washington State, Utah's secondary will have its hands full with the Bruins pass catchers.

A good offense needs a good quarterback, and Brett Hundley, who is completing passes at a 72.1% clip, is one of the best in college football. He completed 18-of-23 passes for 355 and four touchdowns, while running for a fifth against Arizona State. While UCLA's offense ranks toward the middle of the conference in passing, they rank third in passing efficiency, so this is a team that can rack up yards through the air and doesn't make many mistakes, except for the aforementioned 13 sacks allowed.

If there is a glaring weakness, it's the offensive line and their penchant for giving up tackles in the backfield. This week versus the Utes will be a good test for the Bruin offensive line to see if they have indeed "meshed." UCLA has a balanced attack, with Perkins running the ball, Hundley being a threat to pass a run, and skilled wide receivers all over the field, and the Bruins will look to take one step closer to their goal of representing the division in the Pac-12 title game. Utah stands second in the conference in sacks, and that kind of quarterback pressure and tackles for loss will need to continue against the Bruins if the Utes want to have a chance of walking out of the Rose Bowl with a win. Because as Hundley goes, so go the Bruins.