#23 Houston Cougars (2-0, 1-0 Conference USA) at California-Los Angeles Bruins (0-2, 0-1 Pacific Ten)
Kickoff: Saturday, 9/18/10, 9:30 PM Central
TV: Fox Sports Net
UCLA will be desperately looking to build any kind of momentum against the Cougars on Saturday, after a nightmare start to their season. After Bruin miscues ended any chance of pulling off a comeback in a 31-22 seasoning-opening loss at Kansas State, the boys from Pasadena were stomped on their home field by conference rival Stanford, 35-0.
There are reasons for both concern and optimism in the Cougar camp this week. Houston scored a dominating 54-24 victory over UTEP last weekend on national TV, avenging a loss the year prior. The Cougar offense didn't have to punt all game, and the defense looked as good as it has in some time. On the other hand, UH is unsure who will be leading the vaunted offensive attack on Saturday. Heisman hopeful Case Keenum suffered a mild concussion in Friday night's win, and his status is uncertain heading into Saturday's game.
The Cougars travel west ranked #23 in both major polls. The Bruins are 1-5 against ranked teams under head coach Rick Neuheisel, and have lost five straight such games.
Houston Offense vs UCLA Defense
The biggest question not relating to health issues has to be, what can Bryce Beall do for an encore? After his breakout freshman season turned into a disappointing sophomore campaign, "Brick" dedicated himself to returning to his once dominant form. Head coach Kevin Sumlin praised Beall's unselfishness in the season-opening beatdown of Texas State, and Beall followed that up with a 19 carry, 195 yard performance in the UTEP win. One figures Beall will get his share of carries not just because of the aforementioned health issues, but because UCLA's inexperienced front seven has surrendered a staggering 524 yards on the ground through two games. On the other hand, the Bruin secondary, led by All-American Rahim Moore, is the most talented the Coogs will face all season. All of this leads to a startling possibility - what if the Bruins stack the box to dare the Cougars to pass?
(Answer: The Cougars will throw for a million yards, no matter the quarterback. Let's be realistic.)
UCLA Offense vs Houston Defense
It's hard to preview the UCLA offense, because they haven't really shown one thus far this year. Quarterbacks Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut have put together this pitiful composite line through two games: 20-for-47, 201 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT. The multi-headed run attack (which suffered a blow when talented power runner Derrick Coleman suffered a concussion and neck sprain against Stanford) has had some success, averaging 4.9 yards per carry over 70 carries. So if you're looking for a way the Bruins could pull this one out, maybe we see a repeat of the UCF/UTEP storyline from last year, where the opposition just grinds away on the ground, and runs the clock out. Bottom line, if the Cougar front seven has any success stopping the run, this one probably won't be close.
Yes, when the game starts, the score is 0-0, no matter what has happened so far this year. But with two teams looking so far apart, talent-wise, I think the Cougars would have a good shot to pull this one out without Keenum. If he's at full speed, the Cougars have an even bigger edge.