UCLA and Texas meet in Arlington, Texas for a neutral site matchup that is one of the marquee games on college football’s Week 3 slate. While this game is big on name value, the actual on-field matchup has lost some of its luster. Texas is 1-1, but its depth chart has changed drastically due to suspensions and injuries since spring practice. While UCLA is off to a 2-0 start, the Bruins have not impressed. After a close call against Virginia in Week 1, Jim Mora’s team won by seven points in a home date against Memphis. Both teams have plenty to prove heading into this matchup, but it’s unlikely either program will be able to answer of all its question marks with a win in Arlington.
These two teams have met six times, and the overall series is tied at three wins apiece.
UCLA vs. Texas (Arlington)
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET, Saturday
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: UCLA -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. UCLA’s OL Against Texas’ DL
The biggest weakness of UCLA’s offense meets the strength of Texas’ defense. The Bruins have allowed 21 tackles for loss and eight sacks through two games. UCLA has played two solid defenses (Memphis and Virginia), but this unit needs to show progress if the Bruins want to win the Pac-12 title. Center Jake Brendel missed the opener due to a knee injury and returned last Saturday against Memphis. With Brendel back in the mix, UCLA should improve up front over the course of the season. Texas is allowing just 3.2 yards per carry and has registered 10 sacks in two games. End Cedric Reed and tackles Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson are all-conference candidates and present a tough matchup for the Bruins. Can UCLA’s offensive line protect quarterback Brett Hundley?
2. Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes
In Swoopes’ first career start (BYU), he completed 20 of 31 passes for 176 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for seven yards on seven attempts. While Swoopes’ numbers certainly won’t match those of Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston, there were positives for coordinator Shawn Watson to build on in Week 3. One potential problem for Swoopes is a lack of proven options at receiver. The Longhorns may not have Jaxon Shipley due to a head injury, leaving Marcus Johnson and John Harris as the team’s most experienced options. UCLA’s secondary should be one of the best in the Pac-12 this year, and the Bruins have allowed only three passing touchdowns through their first two matchups. How much will Swoopes improve in his second start? Could the sophomore make a few more plays with his legs this week?
3. Supporting Cast
With UCLA’s offensive line struggling, and Swoopes making his second start for Texas, which team’s supporting cast steps up this Saturday? Can the Bruins get consistent production from running back Paul Perkins? Or will linebacker/running back Myles Jack play a bigger role on offense this week? Will Jordan Payton or Thomas Duarte provide opportunities for big plays from Hundley? On the Texas side, the Longhorns need running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown to find running room against a Bruins’ defense allowing just 3.6 yards per carry. If Shipley sits out, will Harris or Johnson provide a consistent threat at receiver?
Expect a low-scoring game on Saturday night. With UCLA’s struggles on the line, the Longhorns should be able to create pressure on quarterback Brett Hundley. But Hundley’s ability to make plays with his legs could be a valuable asset against a solid front seven. Thanks to its defense, expect Texas to hang around in this game. However, the Bruins eventually pull away in the second half and move to 3-0 before a key Pac-12 matchup against Arizona State.