Sept. 7, 2009
BY JOSH PATE
It's a week later on the calendar, and it's not the season opener, but Saturday is a chance for UCLA and Tennessee to prove to each other how far the other has come in a year's time.
Last year, the Vols were ranked 18th in the nation with mild expectations going into Pasadena. UCLA had a renewed promise under new coach Rich Neuheisel. Problem is, after a hard-fought 27-24 overtime victory by the Bruins last year, both teams tanked.
UCLA finished 4-8, and Tennessee was 5-7.
This year, it's Tennessee with a new coach and a revived fan base while UCLA is working on Year 2 of the Neuheisel project with a new quarterback and young talent surrounding him.
What does it all mean? One thing is for certain: Opening-week victories by both teams were nice, but this will be a completely different game.
UCLA pulled away from San Diego State to win 33-14 after some early offensive surprises by the Aztecs. Tennessee damaged Western Kentucky 63-7 in its opener.
And so the level of competition increases on both sides of the ball.
What to Watch:
While UCLA had its share of big plays last week against lowly San Diego State, it's not indicative of how the Bruins score.
Receiver Taylor Embree hauled in a 34-yard reception, while Nelson Rosario (30 yards) and Terrence Austin (20 yards) also had big catches. None of them were touchdowns.
Derrick Coleman did have runs of 31 and 29 yards, and it was the latter that resulted in the only big-play touchdown for the Bruins. Their other two offensive scores in Week 1 were from 12 yards and 6 yards out, respectively. Two field goals and a blocked kick returned for a touchdown rounded out the scoring.
Bottom line: Just because the Bruins can't score quickly and from outside the Red Zone doesn't mean they can't score. Remember last year? Trailing 14-7 at halftime, UCLA scored on a field goal, a 3-yard run and a 3-yard pass in the second half to go ahead with 27 seconds remaining in the game. In overtime, another field goal won the game.
This West Coast team may have more of a Southern style - a slow and planned attack with which SEC teams are familiar.
Did You Know?
Lane Kiffin was 5-1 against UCLA when he was an assistant coach at USC. The Trojans beat the Bruins by an average score of 38-17. But the one UCLA victory came in 2006, Kiffin's final year at Southern Cal, and it kept the Trojans from going to the BCS Championship Game.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
Kicker Kai Forbath has seven career field goals of 50 yards or more, a school record, and is 9-for-9 from 49 yards or more.
Despite a new quarterback and young playmakers, the Bruins were penalized just five times for 38 yards in their season opener.
Four players carried the ball at least four times in the season opener. Johnathan Franklin got the most carries (12 for 43 yards), but Derrick Coleman was the big-play back (17.2-yard average on four carries).
UCLA ranked 116th out of 119 teams last year in total offense. The Bruins' Week 1 opponent, San Diego State, ranked 117th. UCLA trailed SDSU 14-10 after both teams' first two possessions.
The Bruins had three fumbles last week, losing one of them to San Diego State. They also gave up three sacks.
UCLA's defense allowed San Diego State to tally 238 yards through the air, and one receiver (Vincent Brown) got 139 yards.