Another game, another game-winning touchdown in the final minute. In just two games, Tanner Mangum has immortalized himself at BYU. For those two touchdown passes alone he is at the top of Stewart Mandel's Heisman watch at this early point in the season. He's not likely to win the award -- honestly, it would be surprising to see him even at the trophy presentation -- but the point remains, throwing touchdowns like that is bound to generate some buzz.
Many were expecting BYU to be 0-2 going into this game, possibly 1-1. But here the Cougars sit at 2-0 and a #19 ranking in the AP poll. This game against the 10th-ranked UCLA Bruins has much bigger stakes than originally anticipated. If the Cougars leave Pasadena with a victory, the chances of finishing the regular season with double digit wins goes up tremendously, along with their chances of reaching a New Year's Six bowl game. That is not a prediction I'm going to make right now.
Let's just say that the impact of this game is not lost on media, fans, players, coaches and basically anyone who has a stake in one of these teams. It's a big game, and beating UCLA is no small task. Here are a few bold predictions to get you ready for Saturday night.
The BYU defense will force at least 3 turnovers
The Cougars have forced five turnovers so far this season, four interceptions and one fumble recovery. Three of those interceptions found their way into the hands of Kai Nacua against Boise State. He made an immediate impact on the defensive end for BYU. He demonstrated exactly what the defense was missing with him being out against Nebraska.
UCLA has three turnovers this season, all of them coming against UNLV last week. The Bruins still won that game 37-3, showing just how good they are. Winning by 34 points while losing the turnover battle is no small feat. Josh Rosen threw one pick, though he's looked pretty good this season -- albeit it is only two games. The freshman phenom lit up Virginia with 351 passing yards and 3 TDs.
Rosen fared very well in his debut, then noticeably struggled against UNLV with 224 passing yards and barely eclipsing 50% completion. He's a very talented player, but the BYU defense has shown to be stronger than last year and able to take advantage of mistakes. The secondary looked better with Nacua back and the run defense has been great so far. If the Cougars can force the Bruins to be a little more one dimensional it should help BYU to get some opportunities to put Rosen in some bad spots.
BYU will lead multiple times during the game
As has been stated, this is not going to be an easy game. UCLA has a stingy defense. The Bruins D only gave up 56 passing yards to UNLV. 56?! In today's game that's unheard of, even for an option heavy team like Georgia Tech that would be a poor passing game. Holding a team under 100 passing yards, let alone 60, is an insanely dominant number. UNLV did get 181 yards on the ground, so its offense wasn't completely shut down, but allowing 237 total yards of offense is still quite low.
Points will be hard to come by, but just as BYU led multiple times against Boise State I could see some of the same happening. Magnum can throw another 84 yard touchdown pass to start the game, right? That would give the Cougars at least one lead. UCLA is a balanced team that can score in a lot of ways. I think it's evenly matched enough that the Cougars can lead at some points in the game. But at the end of the day, UCLA is just too good for BYU to hold down for too long and will pull away in the fourth quarter.
Tanner Mangum will not throw a game winning touchdown in the last minute
Normally the opposite of this would be true. Who thinks saying a guy won't throw a game winning touchdown is bold? Well, in Mangum's short career he's done it twice. Every game he has played in has ended that way, so who's to say he won't do it again, right? I think we should just be expecting these types of things from here until the end of the season!
In seriousness, though, I don't think we'll be seeing another late touchdown drive for the win, culminating in a heave towards the end zone in the final seconds. He's two for two in such circumstances so maybe magic happens for a third time. Mangum should have a decent game, but that UCLA defense will keep him on his toes and throwing a last second touchdown might be the only way the Cougars get away with a win. All that said, this will be the only bold prediction all season that I hope is wrong.
I'm excited for this game. It's going to be a lot of fun watching the two freshman quarterbacks battle it out for 60 minutes. They will both go on to have great college careers but unfortunately Rosen walks away with this one. I think this UCLA defense will be too much for Mangum and company to overcome. UCLA wins 31-23