PULLMAN, Wash. – The Chip Kelly Era of UCLA football hasn't exactly gotten off to a scintillating start as the Bruins are just 3-13 since Kelly took over, including 0-3 this season heading into Saturday night's Pac-12 opener at No. 19 Washington State. But Cougars head coach Mike Leach, whose squad is 14-2 over the past two seasons and improved to 3-0 with a 31-24 victory at Houston last Friday, says it would be a big mistake for his team to overlook the Bruins.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Washington State -18.5
"I think they are an extremely talented team," Leach said. "I think they are better than they've been playing because I know a great deal about their players -- we recruited a lot of them. I don't think they are playing together as well as they would like right now, but that can happen at any time and that can happen overnight. And as soon as they do, they're an extremely dangerous team." Washington State, despite losing star quarterback Gardner Minshew II to the NFL, hasn't missed a beat offensively with redshirt senior Anthony Gordon taking control of Leach's famed 'Air Raid' offense. Gordon, who threw for 440 yards and three touchdowns at Houston, has already garnered two Pac-12 offensive player of the week awards this season and leads the nation in total offense with an average of 447.7 yards per game, 30 more than second-place Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. UCLA, which lost nonconference games to Cincinnati (24-14), San Diego State (23-14) and last week to No. 5 Oklahoma (48-14), ranks 129th out of 130 FBS teams in total offense (263.3 yards per game), ahead of only Georgia Southern.
ABOUT UCLA (0-3, 0-0 Pac-12)
Kelly told the Los Angeles Times he gave no thought to benching starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson in the loss to the Sooners despite the fact he completed just 15-of-26 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns while throwing two more interceptions, giving him seven turnovers (four interceptions, three fumbles) in three games. "We didn't," Kelly said, "because we felt confident in Dorian." Thompson-Robinson, who ranks 99th nationally passing efficiency with a 117.50 rating, hasn't received much help from a ground game that is averaging just 78 yards per game, last in the Pac-12 and 124th nationally.
ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE (3-0, 0-0)
Gordon leads the nation in passing yards having completed 96-of-122 attempts for 1,324 yards, 12 touchdowns and two interceptions. Senior wide receiver Brandon Arconado is tied for the Pac-12 lead with 23 receptions for 308 yards and had a career-high nine catches for 117 yards in the Houston win while sophomore Max Borghi is averaging 7.8 yards per carry (26 carries for 204 yards) and leads the Pac-12 with five total touchdowns. Defensively, junior linebacker Jahad Woods is eighth in the Pac-12 with 24 tackles while junior defense tackle Will Rodgers III is tied for sixth in the conference with a team-best two sacks.
1. This is the first meeting since 2016 between the two schools with UCLA holding a 40-20-1 all-time series edge but Washington State had won the last two meetings - 31-27 in 2015 at the Rose Bowl and 27-21 in Pullman a year later.
2. Washington State leads the nation with seven fumble recoveries.
3. UCLA has lost its last 10 games against ranked opponents with the last win coming in 2015 at No. 18 Utah.
PREDICTION: Washington State 41, UCLA 20