College Football Preview: The 2014 UCLA Bruins
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2014 College Football Preview
Odds to Win National Championship: 16-1 See the Latest Odds
Overview: Head coach Jim Mora took another big step in the right direction with the UCLA Bruins, leading them to another bowl game and winning 10 games for the first time since 2005. The Bruins won their first bowl game since 2009 and proved that they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the Pac-12 by beating USC, Arizona and Nebraska. For the first time in several years, UCLA fans have a real reason to be excited about football and aren’t too crazy to start thinking about a possible conference title. Of course, this will be a huge season to see just how close UCLA is to competing with the best of the best.
Offense: Brett Hundley may be the best quarterback in the country who doesn’t get mentioned nearly as much as he should. Last season, Hundley completed 67.2 percent of his passes for over 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns, while rushing for 748 yards and 11 touchdowns. Don’t be surprised if Hundley is near the top of the list when it comes to NFL prospects this season. Hundley will also have plenty of talent around him at the wide receiver spot with Devin Fuller and Jordan Payton, a duo that hauled in a combined 81 passes last season. If there’s one area that needs to improve offensively, it’s the backfield, as the UCLA running backs were so bad last season that linebacker Myles Jack saw a lot of the carries towards the end of the season. Jordon James and Paul Perkins need to step their game up.
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Defense: It’s no secret that UCLA is going to miss Anthony Barr, one of college football’s top pass rushers who has racked up 23 sacks in the last two years since switching to defense. However, the Bruins have one of the better young linebackers in college football in Myles Jack, a sophomore who won Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year and Freshman Defensive Player of the Year. Eric Kendricks also returns at linebacker after leading the Bruins in tackles last season. There’s also talent in the Bruins secondary with Ishmael Adams and Randall Goforth, two players who came away with six interceptions. This unit has the potential to be solid, it just needs to figure out where the pass rush is going to come from. There’s going to be pressure on guys such as Ellis McCarthy to step up and fill Barr’s void.
Special Teams: Ka’imi Fairbairn returns at kicker after making 14 of 20 field goal attempts, and punter Sean Covington also returns after averaging close to 42 yards per punt.
Outlook: With the talent, confidence and a favorable schedule, UCLA is capable of making a run at one of those four playoff spots. Does that mean it’ll happen? Who knows? UCLA has the quarterback, pieces around him and a solid defense. The Bruins also get Oregon, Arizona, USC and Stanford in UCLA. This UCLA squad is for real and should make another push for a double-digit winning season. There’s also value in laying a little something on their future to win the national championship.