#7 UCLA Bruins at Virginia Cavaliers
Scott Stadium – Charlottesville, Virginia
Saturday, August 30, 2014, 12:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: UCLA -21 1/2
Current Line: UCLA -20
Opening Total: 59
Current Total: 55
Opening Money Line: UCLA -2400 / Virginia +1375
Current Money Line: UCLA -1500 / Virginia +850
The UCLA Bruins and Virginia Cavaliers meet for the first time ever in the season opener for both teams Saturday in Charlottesville. Virginia makes the return trip to Los Angeles in 2015.
UCLA went 10-3 last year under coach Jim Mora now in his third year with the Bruins. The Bruins crushed Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl 42-12. UCLA averaged 252 passing yards and 197 rushing yards per game on offense. On defense, the Bruins allowed 218 passing yards and 168 rushing yards per game. UCLA outscored teams 37-23 last season. UCLA returns 17 starters including 9 on offense. The Bruins are #7 in the pre-season polls.
Virginia is coached by Mike London in his fourth year with the Cavaliers. Virginia started off last season 2-1 including a home upset of BYU. However, they would not win another game after the fast start to finish 2-10. The Cavaliers averaged 212 passing yards and 157 rushing yards per game. On defense, Virginia allowed 233 passing yards and 171 rushing yards per game. Virginia was outscored 33-19 last season. Sixteen starters are back including 9 on offense.
UCLA junior quarterback Brett Hundley is a Heisman contender and will be in the NFL eventually. Hundley threw for 3,071 yards with 24 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, and also led the Bruins in rushing with 748 yards and 11 touchdowns on 160 yards.
Besides Hundley, the top three rushers are back for UCLA. Paul Perkins had 134 carries for 573 yards and 6 touchdowns, plus 24 catches for 296 yards per game. Jordon James had 101 carries for 534 yards and 5 touchdowns, plus 10 catches, despite missing five games with an injury. Two way player Myles Jack rushed for 267 yards and 7 touchdowns, and is even more valuable as a linebacker on the defense.
The Bruins must replace leading receiver Shaquelle Evans now with the New York Jets. He had 47 catches and 9 touchdowns. Devin Fuller (43 catches, 471 yards and 4 touchdowns) and Jordan Payton ( 38 catches, 440 yards and a touchdown) are back though. Devin Lucien had 19 catches last year and should get more without Evans.
Four starters are back on a strong offensive line.
The linebackers should be the strength of the defense headlined by Jack and Eric Kendricks.
Quarterback David Watford completed 57.1% of his passes for 2,202 yards with 8 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, and he also rushed f0r 208 yards on 104 carries with 3 touchdowns. Watford is back, but the consensus is he will be unseated by Greyson Lambert. Lambert threw for 340 yards with a touchdown and 2 interceptions, but he isn’t as mobile as Watford.
It is amazing that the offense struggled so much despite having the ACC’s leading returning rusher in Kevin Parks. Parks does return in 2014 after he had 227 carries for 1,031 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with 38 catches for 329 yards and a touchdown. Khalek Shepherd is also back and rushed for 304 yards and a touchdown and made 23 catches. Taquan Mizzell is a former five star recruit with big play potential. He rushed for 184 yards and a touchdown and made 29 catches for 164 yards and a touchdown.
Tight end Jake McGee transferred to Florida after making 43 catches for 395 yards and 2 touchdowns. Darius Jennings had 38 catches for 340 yards and 3 touchdowns and is back for Virginia. Sophomores Keeon Johnson and Kyle Dockins will also get a lot of targets.
The offensive line must replace multi-year starters Morgan Moses and Luke Bowanko. The line struggled like most of the offense.
The Virginia defense was decent at the beginning of the season but was racked by injury at the end of the season and struggled badly. Seven starters are back and Virginia should be improved on defense if they can stay healthy.
UCLA is 4-0 ATS in non-conference games, 4-1 overall and 5-2 in road games.
Virginia is 5-2 ATS in August, 7-16-2 on grass, 7-17-2 overall, 3-11-2 at home, and 2-9-1 in non-conference games.
Virginia should be improved from the 2 win team they were last year, but It might not show against an elite team like UCLA even at home. I like the Bruins to win with ease.
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