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UCLA preview: the Bruins defense

NCAA Football: UCLA at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Well, here we are. It’s November. For the past few seasons, this time of year has Utah fans feeling a mix of hope and anxiety. “We’re bowl eligible already, but could we get to the Rose Bowl this year?” We scroll through our Instagram feeds, proud to see an @utahutes post reminding us that we’re ranked 21st in the CFP poll. We know that we haven’t been blowing teams out, but we’re winning gritty and that might be just enough to win the next four games.

Not this year.

Nope, this year we’re not playing for a ranking or a New Years’ Six Bowl Game- all we’ve got left to play for is pride (and that Jack Tuttle doesn’t de-commit). I’ve been plenty critical of the Utes this season, especially over the past month, but now that all the chips are off the table I’m hoping Coach Whittingham and Co. get focused and make sure that this team gets to a bowl game. With that said, let’s take a look at the UCLA defense.

Opponent Preview: UCLA Defense

Statistically speaking, the UCLA defense is awful. They’re ranked 120th (out of a possible 129 total FBS teams) in total defense. They give up an incredible 307.1 rushing yards per game- that’s good for dead last in the FBS. Teams average over 6 yards per carry and have scored 23 touchdown on the ground against the Bruin D. In 44 red zone trips, UCLA has given up 26 touchdowns and 12 field goals. The Bruins have forced only nine turnovers in eight games, with four fumble recoveries and five interceptions. In their four losses, UCLA gave up 48 points (Memphis), 58 points (Stanford), 47 points (Arizona, with Khalil Tate), and 44 points (Washington). In short, this defense is best described as “porous.”

So, how will the Utes do? Given our performance over the past few weeks, it’s hard to be hopeful. If Troy Taylor were smart, he’d give several touches to Zack Moss and rely heavily on the read-option. He’d push a high tempo offense, and go no-huddle directly at a defense that’s been on its heels all season. He’d make sure to involve Carrington II early and often, and find ways to extend drives beyond 3 plays. I think the real battle is off the field, not on it- are the players still motivated? Do they care enough to give the fans the show they deserve? If the answer to these questions is a resounding “yes,” this is a favorable matchup for the Utes. Tomorrow we’ll be taking a look at the pass-happy UCLA offense.