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UCLA Bruins vs. BYU Cougars Preview and Prediction

Jamaal Williams

Jamaal Williams

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UCLA (1-1) travels to Provo for the first time since 2008. In that last visit to Cougar Town, the Bruins suffered a record 59-0 loss at the hands of BYU. A lot has changed in the last eight years, including the Bruins getting a 24-23 win over the Cougars last season.

BYU (1-1) enters this game looking to bounce back after a sixth straight loss to rival Utah that came down to a gutsy attempt to win on a two-point conversion that ultimately failed with Taysom Hill getting stopped by Utah’s defensive front.

This is a big game for both programs as they start to enter the meat of their schedules, so getting a win will set either team up very nicely for the remainder of the season.

Could we see some #Pac12AfterDark theatrics with this one? That very well could happen. The quarterback battle is terrific with UCLA’s Josh Rosen, who is still trying to find his groove in Kennedy Polamalu’s new offense, and BYU’s Taysom Hill, who has yet to find success through the air in the first two weeks of the season.

UCLA at BYU

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 10:21 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: UCLA -3

Three Things to Watch

1. Another tough road game for UCLA

In a college football world where Power Five programs either play at home or neutral sites, UCLA has gone against the grain on this year’s schedule. In week one, the Bruins traveled to Texas A&M and this week UCLA will enter a hostile LaVell Edwards Stadium where BYU is hosting a Power Five team for the first time since 2014.

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It’s refreshing to see a Power Five team challenge itself in the non-conference, but will anyone around Westwood be celebrating this tough schedule if the Bruins are 1-2? Not really.

2. How many touches will BYU RB Jamaal Williams get?

Williams put BYU on his back in a week one win over Arizona with 29 carries for 162 yards. In week two, the senior only had 12 carries in a loss to Utah. With’s BYU’s passing attack struggling to find success in Ty Detmer’s new offense through two weeks, the Cougars will need to rely on Williams to pull off the upset at home. Expect Williams to get 30 carries this week as he has said that the Arizona game wasn’t his best performance that he has to offer.

3. Will UCLA DT Eddie Vanderdoes play?

The former five-star recruit and Notre Dame transfer has been plagued with injuries his entire collegiate career. Last week against UNLV, Vanderdoes injured his knee again, and after his departure, the UNLV offense started to find success against the Bruins.

UCLA head coach Jim Mora is hopeful that Vanderdoes will play as he downplayed the significance of his lineman’s latest injury. But he still will likely be a game-time decision, one that could play a significant role in the outcome of this game.

Final Analysis

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This game has the makings of a contest that east coasters might actually want to stay up late into the evening to watch. BYU and UCLA went down to the wire a year ago in the Rose Bowl, and there’s no reason to think it won’t happen again.

BYU’s secondary is going to face its toughest test yet being challenged by Josh Rosen. The Cougars had a lot of success against the Rosen One in Pasadena, but he still made terrific throws down the stretch to pull out that victory.

The running game will be critical for both teams. Nate Starks is expected to make his season debut for the Bruins and he had 86 yards against BYU last season, but the Cougars have the best running back in this game with Jamaal Williams. He has the potential to be one of the best ball carriers the nation by season’s end and he will carry BYU to a victory in this one.

Prediction: BYU 27, UCLA 24

— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is publisher of Rivals' BYU site, CougarNation.com, and also is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.