No. 17 UCLA (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) vs. Colorado (3-4, 0-4)
Location: Rose Bowl, Nov. 2, 4:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports 1 (Craig Bolerjack, Joey Harrington, Ryan Nece)
Radio: 570 AM (Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)
Last meeting: UCLA beat the Buffs, 42-14, in Boulder as Brett Hundley threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more. Colorado was in the midst of a 1-11 season under Jon Embree, who was fired after just two years.
Key storylines: The Bruins need to get their offense back on track after several lackluster efforts this month. The offensive line looks like it’s coming together again after losing three left tackles to injury, but quarterback Brett Hundley has veered from average to mediocre to awful this month. The Buffs provide him an easy target, but a high-volume performance that only looks good in the box score — see his 410 yards against Cal — won’t bode well.
Colorado is simply trying to become competitive. In three seasons, Mike MacIntyre turned San Jose State from a 1-12 team to a 10-2 squad. As a reward, he earned himself a bigger job and arguably an even bigger rebuild. The Buffs are trying to get their first conference win, battling against Cal to avoid the title of the Pac-12′s worst team.
Key players: Paul Richardson once signed with UCLA before being dismissed following an arrest on suspicion of felony theft. Given a second chance in Boulder, he’s fulfilling the promise he showed as a four-star recruit in 2010.
“It’s just really impressive athleticism,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. “I read he had a boot on on Monday. It would be a really great thing if he had a boot on on Saturday. That guy, he can scare you.”
New starter Sefo Liufau looks like a better quarterback than Connor Wood, but that’s not a high bar given that the latter barely completed half his passes. Addison Gillam is Myles Jack’s main competition for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. Hailing from the Redding area, the 6-foot-3 outside linebacker leads the conference with 9.43 tackles per game — 0.29 ahead of UCLA’s Eric Kendricks.
As mentioned in the earlier section, all eyes will be on Hundley this Saturday. Quarterbacks get a disproportionate share of credit and blame, but he needs to do more than he has in his past three games to truly become one of the nation’s top quarterbacks.
Left tackle Simon Goines won’t return this week — no sense rushing him out against Colorado — so keep on eye on how the line gels with Scott Quessenberry in again at left guard. The true freshman could start the rest of the season.
The linebackers aren’t an area of concern for UCLA, but it’s always fun to watch what could be the nation’s best unit in action. Freshman Myles Jack and Jordan Zumwalt flip-flopped on the weakside at Oregon, with the former moving in and the latter moving out. The Bruins will tinker with that combination moving forward, and could switch them depending on the matchup.
“I like his length,” linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich said of Zumwalt. “I like his ability to set an edge. It gives us a little something. I really like Myles behind the ball, because he’s got so much range.”
Did you know?: Colorado’s live mascot, Ralphie, is a she. Female bison are used because they are less aggressive. Here’s hoping Ralphie V, born in 2006 and introduced a year later, is living a better life than Georgia’s Uga.