PASADENA, Calif. – UCLA has climbed into the Pac-12 South Division title hunt following back-to-back upset wins. The Bruins will try to keep things rolling Saturday night when they host reeling Colorado.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network. LINE: UCLA -6.5
After a 34-16 road win at Stanford and a 42-32 home victory over then-No. 24 Arizona State, UCLA improved to 3-2 in Pac-12 play and is only a game behind first-place Utah and USC. The Bruins, who have one of the youngest FBS rosters with 64 freshmen, have won three of their last five overall following an 0-3 start in head coach Chip Kelly’s second season. “The best thing I can say is that the Baby Bruins are growing up, and it’s fun to see,” Kelly said after Saturday’s win over the Sun Devils. “We still have a lot of things to work on, but they’ve gotten better week by week.” Colorado, meanwhile, has been trending in the opposite direction under first-year head coach Mel Tucker, dropping four straight following a 3-1 start, and the Buffaloes find themselves alone in the South Division basement at 1-4.
ABOUT COLORADO (3-5, 1-4 Pac-12)
Coming off back-to-back blowout losses at Oregon (45-3) and Washington State (41-10), the Buffs bounced back strong in taking a 31-21 lead into the fourth quarter last Friday against visiting USC but then were outscored 14-0 in the final frame to suffer their fourth straight setback. Senior quarterback Steven Montez, who had thrown a combined six interceptions with no TDs against the Ducks and Cougars, accounted for 369 total yards and four TDs against USC without a turnover, and hooked up with wide receivers Laviska Shenault (nine catches-172 yards) and K.D. Nixon (3-20) for a combined three scoring passes. Meanwhile, despite the continued strong play of linebacker Nate Landman (second in the Pac-12 with 81 total tackles), Colorado ranks last in the Pac-12 in total defense (486.9 yards allowed) and passing defense (327.3 yards) while surrendering 34.9 points per game (11th in the conference).
ABOUT UCLA (3-5, 3-2)
A senior is lighting the way for the young Bruins, as running back Joshua Kelly has rushed for 100 or more yards in three of his last four outings, including 164 yards and four TDs against the Sun Devils. Kelly leads the Pac-12 and ranks 19th nationally with 105 yards per outing and has paired nicely with sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who ranks sixth in the conference with his average of 252.4 yards of total offense per contest and has accounted for 18 total TDs. Senior linebacker Krys Barnes (53 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss), leads a defense which, like Colorado’s, also ranks near the bottom in the Pac-12, allowing 34.3 points and 450.1 yards per game.
1. UCLA leads the series 10-4 and has won six of the seven meetings played at home.
2. Montez ranks third in the Pac-12 with 255.9 passing yards per game but is tied for second with eight interceptions.
3. The Bruins are seeking their first three-game win streak since 2015.
PREDICTION: Colorado 38, UCLA 34