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Colorado Buffaloes vs. UCLA Bruins Preview and Prediction


UCLA rebounded from back-to-back losses nicely with a thoroughly dominant performance against Cal a week ago. The Bruins' win, combined with Utah's loss two days later on the other side of Los Angeles, put UCLA in shouting distance of the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Coach Mike MacIntyre

The Bruins' roadmap to winning the South's berth into the league title game is pretty simple. Should they win out, they're in.

Colorado visits the Rose Bowl Saturday fresh off the program's first Pac-12 win in two years. Designs on the South division are probably unrealistic, but the Buffs are more than halfway to bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007.

Though last week's win at Oregon State was a milestone for head coach Mike MacIntyre, Colorado will not see another team as beatable the rest of the season. The Buffs will need to score some upsets to reach the postseason.

Colorado at UCLA

Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Spread: UCLA -21

Three Things to Watch

1. A Game of Runs

UCLA and Colorado come into Saturday's contest sporting two of the nation's worst defenses against the run: UCLA at 203.9 yards per game (No. 105), and Colorado at 209.5 (No. 111).

The Bruins tightened up last week against Cal, limiting the Golden Bears to 3.7 yards per carry for 131 total — both season lows since Week 1.

They'll need to continue against a Colorado offense that has struck more of a balance in MacIntyre's third season. His 2013 and 2014 squads went pass-heavy, but a three-back look has given the Buffs balance.

Slowing the Buffs could prove challenging with the Bruins adding linebacker Isaako Savaiinaea to the long list of injured.

Likewise, UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has employed a run-game look with three primary ball carriers shouldering the load: Paul Perkins, who averages better than 107 yards per game; Nate Starks, and Soso Jamabo.

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However, Perkins sustained an injury last week, which opens the door for the freshman Jamabo to shoulder a bigger load Saturday.

2. Turnover Battle

Colorado's improved its ball control from a season ago and sits on the positive side of the season-long turnover margin, but when the Buffs lose the turnover battle, they're 0-3 on the season.

Turnovers have not been as detrimental for UCLA, which is on the negative end for the season. The Bruins are 2-1 when giving away more possessions than they take.

Nevertheless, the UCLA offense is obviously more effective when maintaining control, in large part because that means the Bruins are getting the productive version of freshman quarterback Josh Rosen. Rosen has three multiple-interception games on the season. The Bruins are 2-2 when he throws any picks, but undefeated when he puts together a clean sheet.

Rosen was at his absolute best a week ago, picking apart a Cal secondary that was among the nation's leaders in interceptions coming in to the tune of a UCLA program-record 34 completions.

3. The UCLA Pass Rush

Colorado ranks near the bottom of the conference in sacks allowed at 20, which has made quarterback Sefo Liufau's job difficult. The Buffs gave up 23 all of last season.

This could be a prime opportunity for defensive coordinator Tom Bradley to tee off with the blitz. UCLA has 14 as a team on the season, a pedestrian output given this was one of the nation's most aggressive, blitzing defenses just a few seasons ago.

Aaron Wallace had an outstanding showing against Cal. Expect him to get more opportunities to wreak havoc this week, which should open things up more for Deon Hollins. Hollins, the Bruins sack leader a season ago, has faced more double-teams in 2015.

Final Analysis

The song's been the same for Colorado much of the season. The Buffs are better, but not quite to the level of their Pac-12 South brethren.

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They ran out of gas in the fourth quarter against Oregon and let a lead going into the final period lapse against Arizona. At Arizona State, Colorado dug an early hole it could never escape.

Saturday's visit to UCLA promises more of the same. The Bruins are not without flaws, evidenced in the home loss earlier this month to Arizona State and the blowout against Stanford, but every weakness Colorado has, UCLA checks off a worthy counter.

The Bruins can expect to strengthen their case for a final-month push at the Pac-12 Championship Game with a lopsided win to ring in Halloween.

Prediction: UCLA 45, Colorado 24

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.