Utah heads to the Rose Bowl on Saturday for a Pac-12 south game with implications in the Pac-12 south race. Utah is currently in the lead in the south division, but with USC and Colorado surging and a visit from the no. 5 ranked Washington Huskies next week, a win against UCLA would prove critical for the Utes heading down the stretch. The Bruins have their backs to the wall at (3-4, 1-3) and are desperate for a win. A loss to Utah this week would all but eliminate the preseason favorites from south contention.
Today we’ll preview the UCLA defense and what a Utah offense that struggled last week will be up against. The Bruin defense is definitely the strong point of Jim Mora’s squad in comparison to a struggling UCLA offense. UCLA allows 344 yards per game in total offense and holds opponents to 23.1 points per game. The Bruin pass defense is holding opponents to 198.1 yards passing per game, and against the run, they allow 4 yards a carry to opposing running backs.
The Bruins have held their last six opponents to under 400 total offensive yards and all opponents under 60% passing this year. UCLA’s defense is very athletic, and have a number of playmakers capable of having a major impact on a game. Utah’s offense is not 100% and has struggled to put points on the board at times this season. Despite UCLA’s record, this matchup will provide a challenge for the offensive players and coaches.
UCLA’s defensive line features two veteran studs in defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes (6-3, 325 lbs.) and defensive end Takkarist McKinley (6-2, 265 lbs.). Both players have been a force for opposing offensive lines to deal with this season. Vanderdoes has the ability to control the line of scrimmage and has 18 tackles while McKinley gets into the backfield with 4 sacks and 9 tackles for a loss. A key matchup will be Vanderdoes against Utah’s interior offensive line.
At the linebacker position, the Bruins have a couple absolute playmakers in outside linebacker Jayon Brown (6-0, 230 lbs.) and inside linebacker Kenny Young (6-1, 240 lbs.). Brown and Young have both played exceptionally well this year. Brown leads the Pac-12 in tackles with 63 and Young is not far behind, with 51 tackles coupled with 4 sacks. Both linebackers have been tackle machines this year and are sure to be keyed in on Joe Williams after his 179 yard effort last week.
Safety Randall Goforth (5-10, 190 lbs.) can do it all. The senior has primarily played at safety over his career, but is versatile, filling in at cornerback for and injured Nate Meadors earlier this season. Goforth has 5 pass breakups and a forced fumble this season. Nickelback Adarius Pickett (5-11, 202 lbs.) leads the team with 3 interceptions. Cornerback Fabian Moreau (6-0 202 lbs.) has 7 pass breakups, a forced fumble, and an interception. Troy Williams has not thrown an interception since week 3 against San Jose State. He will need to continue to make good decisions with ball this week, as the Bruin secondary will make him pay for any mistakes.
The Bruins are desperate for a win and Jayon Brown made comments this week about the defense taking it upon themselves to play even better, to alleviate pressure on a struggling UCLA offense. Utah struggled moving the ball last week against a much weaker Beaver defense. Weather conditions will not factor into this game in L.A., but Utah will need to play much better this week on offense to score points against a motivated Bruin defense.