The UCLA Bruins enter the season at No. 13. Here are five things that matter heading into UCLA’s 2016 season.
UCLA is talented again, but …
We’ve seen this movie before. UCLA has the talent. It has the coaching, the experience, and the pieces all in place to win the Pac-12 title, but can everything come together for the team that hasn’t quite played up to expectations?
Step 1 is to get more physical on offense, and that comes from new offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu. On defense, the 4-3 front should be solid against the run, but now it has to be even tougher. Overall, there can’t be any more finesse aspect to a team that’s been the epitome of just that.
Can ‘The Rosen One’ make everyone better?
Josh Rosen might turn out to be the best NFL quarterback prospect in college football, and he’ll have to play like it early on with a relatively new receiving corps that needs to find a few key playmakers right away. He’ll benefit from a more balanced offense that’ll take some of the heat off, but if UCLA is going to rock, Rosen has to be magnificent.
Mora’s best defense yet?
Jim Mora Jr.’s defenses have been solid, but this one has the potential to be special – even without Myles Jack coming back. The line should have a strong rotation around Eddie Vanderdoes, while a deep linebacking corps should be terrific as the season goes on.
Can the offensive line protect Mr. Rosen?
It’s hard to be a tougher, more physical team without the big blockers in the interior, but that’s what UCLA will try doing as it figures out the guard situation. It’s not a big concern, but if the offense doesn’t work it’ll likely be because the front five isn’t up to championship snuff.
What’s going to happen?
The Bruins will go 9-3 and come really, really close to playing for the Pac-12 championship – but a loss to USC will ruin the season. They’ll be terrific at times at home against Stanford and Utah, and they’ll come up with a few nice shootout wins over Washington State and Arizona. Then, with everything on the line against the Trojans, the balloon will go pffffffft.