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What you need to know: BYU vs UCLA

NCAA Football: UCLA vs BYU
Josh Rosen looks to beat the Cougars at their home opener.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The History

This Saturday the UCLA Bruins will travel to Provo to take on the BYU Cougars in their home opener. The Cougars haven't had a lot of success against the Bruins as they have lost eight of the eleven match-ups. The series dates back to 1983 when the Cougars knocked off the Bruins 37-35. BYU would go on to lose the next six games against the Bruins before splitting the last four in the series. Two of the games have been played on a neutral field as they were bowl games, and the game on Saturday will mark the fifth in Provo as the teams even up their home-away games.

Provo, Utah 2008 (59-0 Win)

The last time the Bruins paid Provo a visit turned into a nightmare for UCLA. The Cougars scored early and often as they put up 59 points, 35 of them in the second quarter. Max Hall led the offense as he completed 27 of his 35 passes with 271 yards passing and seven touchdowns. Six of the touchdowns came in the first half. Austin Collie led the receivers with 110 yards on 10 receptions to go along with his two touchdowns. The Cougars defense shut down any scoring attempt by the Bruins, including a blocked field goal.

Pasadena, CA 2015 (24-23 Loss)

Last year the Cougars walked into Pasadena and almost came out with an upset win. BYU could only muster two field goals in a key fourth quarter while the Bruins came away with two touchdowns. BYU led the Bruins for just under 47 minutes, finally giving up the lead at the 3:21 mark. The Cougars led in the fourth quarter, 20-10, but couldn't finish it off as the UCLA running game came to life and punished the Cougars defense. Tanner Mangum went 30-44 with 244 yards in the loss.

The Outlook

The loss to the Utah Utes on Saturday was devastating to a fan base that is starving for a win against their rival. The defense played great, with exception to one drive, but the offense struggled almost the entire game. Although many expected the Cougars to lose, the fact that it was lost due to a missed two-point conversion caused much more pain to many than a blow out would have. We did learn quite a bit about BYU after this game, but we also learned a ton about the new coaching staff,

The Positives

The defense played tremendous and would have easily taken the top spot on the teams positives, if it weren't for one Kalani Sitake. In the third quarter the Cougars lost one of their defensive leaders in Kai Nacua when the officials called him for targeting and sent him to the locker room. The call itself was questionable, at best, and Sitake let the officials know it. If you have ever wanted to see a BYU coach go ballistic on somebody, look no further than this video. It also shows various views of the "Targeting" call. The fact that Sitake would stick up for his players, to the point of getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for himself, had to win over the team if it hadn't already. He showed how much his players mean to him, how much BYU means to him, and how much the rivalry game means to him. This is all good news for the future of the program.

The Negatives

The offense once again struggled to move the ball and put points on the board. Without a doubt the Utes have a great defense, however, six turnovers combined with Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams should have led to more than 19 points. The Cougars offense needs to find a way to show some consistency and prove that they can score on their opponents or it could be a long season.

The Match-ups

The Cougars secondary vs Josh Rosen and company:

One of the key match-ups in the game on Saturday will be the chess match between the Cougars secondary and Josh Rosen and his receivers. The Cougars will look to play tight defense and force Rosen into bad throws. The Cougars will be facing a talented quarterback and a group of talented receivers, and will need to play a perfect game in order to win their battle.

The Keys to Watch

When the Bruins have the ball:

Watch for the team to play balanced ball against a good Cougar defense. In the first two games the Bruins have passed the ball 86 times and have rushed it 80. The Bruins young quarterback hasn't started the season as well as he would have liked, only hitting 58% of his passes while throwing two touchdowns to his three interceptions. However, watch for him to get back to the player he was last year that everyone was so scared of. He has a great group of receivers and Kenneth Walker II needs to be watched as he already has a 62 yard touchdown on the year.

Don't forget to keep your eyes on Bruins running back Soso Jamabo as he has racked up 181 yards on 34 carries. With the ability to average over five yards per rush he will look to punish the Cougars defense and wear them down late in the game.

Watch for the Cougars to build on their experience from the first two games and fight to stop the run while putting pressure on the quarterback. If the Cougars can get into the backfield and disrupt timing, the Bruins quarterback will feel rushed, or even find himself on the ground. The quicker the Cougars can get into his head, the better chance they have a creating turnovers and gaining field position.

When the Cougars have the ball:

Watch for the Cougars to take few more chances in order to get the ball moving. The Cougars have played fairly conservative on offense and played their star running back sparingly in the last game. Early on Williams had few touches. As he started to pick up the calls, he ended up leaving with a leg injury which limited him to 12 carries. Watch for him to have carries more in the 20-25 range this week as Hill gives the ball up a few more times on the option read. Watch for Hill to look a bit more like himself as the season goes and this game should be even better than last. Hill needs to find a good balance between rushing and passing as he completed over 70% of his passes against Arizona, but only rushed for 37 yards. Against Utah he rushed for 87 yards but only completed 54% of his passes. The Cougars need to find a way to include the receivers and tight ends into the game plan and receivers not dropping the balls would help.

Watch for the Bruins to go after Hill and force him beat them through the air. The front line will be looking to take advantage of a struggling offensive line, hoping to find themselves in the backfield with Hill and Williams on the ground. Expect the secondary to play on an island until Hill can prove to them that they need extra help. This will leave extra players to stack the box and stuff the Cougar runners.

Next Meeting

At this time there are no future games scheduled between the teams.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 8:15 pm MT

Where: Lavell Edwards Stadium-Provo, Utah


Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143

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