The fifth game of the Colorado Buffaloes' football schedule brings us to the first Pac-12 home game of the season against the UCLA Bruins. It's hard to forget the 45-6 manhandling of the Buffaloes the Bruins pulled off last year, but with this being a home game, there's a chance the Buffs could surprise and beat UCLA.
It's impossible for UCLA to become any more irrelevant in Los Angeles football with the presence of USC as a national championship contender. For the Bruins, they fired Rick Neuheisel, and are bringing in an experienced NFL coach in Jim Mora Jr. to the college football level, a place he hasn't been since 1984. However, with talent returning, new coaches, and a new starting quarterback, UCLA should be an interesting team to watch.
Offense: Same story as other Buffalo opponents this year. Another new coach, another spread offense. Noel Mazzone comes over from Arizona State to become the Bruins' new offensive coordinator and the spread offense will be a much better fit than the pistol that UCLA had installed last year. Quarterback was an unknown earlier in the year with seniors Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut, and freshman Brett Hundley, but on Friday, Hundley was named the starter. Hundley should get to know handing off to Jonathan Franklin very well. Franklin is a reliable back that will need to become a better receiving back, yet his consistency and his experience should be a major help to this team.
Offensive line has some holes, but Xavier Su'a-Filo returns from his mission and Jeff Baca still remains, likely being the two most important lineman for the team. They are short on depth for the line and any injuries to the line could cause major problems for the Bruins. Nelson Rosario, the team's biggest loss at wide receiver, will need to be replaced and Joseph Fauria, Jerry Johnson, and Shaq Evans will have many chances to fill that void. The Bruins are a work in progress on offense; they have returning players at some positions and a better coaching staff, but must overcome some of their depth problems and learn the spread with ease to have success.
Defense: Jim Mora has put the 3-4 in place on the defensive side of the ball, Mora's main stamp on the defense. He's been a 3-4 guy his whole tenure in the NFL and the defense should be greatly improved because of the linebacking and lineman talent. Cassius Marsh and Datone Jones will man the end spots on the defensive line and should have success from the get-go while Owa Odighizuwa makes an impact as well. Returning at linebacker are Patrick Larimore, Eric Kendricks, and Jordan Zumwalt, experienced players that all totaled at least 60 tackles last year. Sheldon Price and Aaron Hester return at the starting corner positions with safety Tevin McDonald being the standout player in the secondary. Personnel wise, the defense is in fine shape, but the adjustment to the 3-4 should cause some struggles for this defense.
Outlook: This game should be another tough test in the Buffaloes' quest to make a bowl game this year. Yes, it's a home game, and it's so easy to say right now that they could win this game. But, they just don't have as much talent as the Bruins and a young offense in Colorado doesn't match up well against an experienced defense in UCLA. A win isn't out of the question, but sometimes optimism only gets you so far.