2016 UCLA Bruins Football Preview

Team Info
UCLA Bruins
Head Coach: Jim Mora, Jr.
2015 record: 8-5 overall, 5-4 Pac 12 South
2015 Postseason results: Lost to Nebraska 37-29 in the Foster Farms Bowl
2015 returning starters: 4 offense, 7 defense

Betting Info
Odds to win 2017 College Football  Championship game: 60/1
Odds to win 2016 Pac 12 Championship Game: +495
Odds to Win 2016 Pac 12 South Division: +175
Regular season wins: under 9 -145 / over 9 +115
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UCLA is favored to win the Pac 12 South title in 2016.
UCLA is favored to win the Pac 12 South title in 2016.

UCLA entered last season with high expectations but injuries to some key defensive players led to a somewhat disappointing 8-5 campaign. The Bruins began the season 7-2, but would lose three of their last four games including a 37-29 loss to Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl.

This year, despite only 11 starters being back for coach Jim Mora, the Bruins are favored to win the Pac 12 South title. Let’s take a deeper look at UCLA in all three phases of the game, plus a look at the schedule.

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UCLA averaged 468 yards per game on offense including 289 passing yards last year and scored 32 points per game. Only four starters are back for coordinator Kennedy Polamalu though.

Quarterback Josh Rosen started as a true freshman last year. He threw for 3,670 yards with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and also had 2 rushing touchdowns. He will likely be a first round draft pick in the NFL in a year or two barring injury. Mike Fafaul will serve as the back-up.

All-Pac 12 running back Paul Perkins is now with the New York Giants after rushing for over 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns along with making 30 catches and a touchdown. Soso Jamabo and Nate Starks each averaged over 6 yards a carry behind Perkins. Both are back and will likely split the carries. Jamabo had 66 carries for 403 yards and 4 touchdowns. Starks had 50 carries for 320 yards and 5 touchdowns. Nate Iese will sometimes line up at either fullback or tight end.

UCLA loses four of their top five receivers from last year. Jordan Payton is now with the Cleveland Browns. He had 78 carries for 1,106 yards and 5 touchdowns. Tight end Thomas Duarte is now with the Miami Dolphins after making 53 catches for 872 yards and 10 touchdowns. Receiver Devin Fuller is also in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons. He had 24 catches and 3 touchdowns. Darren Andrews is back though after making 43 catches for 443 yards and a touchdowns. Incoming freshman Theo Howard was a highly touted recruit. Eldridge Massington will also likely start. Iese will play a larger part in the offense after making 11 catches last year.

The offensive line loses three of five starters. Left tackle Conor McDermott is back though and will headline the unit. The right side of the line should be solid with guard Scott Quessenberry and tackle Kolton Miller.


UCLA allowed 402 yards per game on defense last year including 199 rushing yards per game. Three teams rushed for over 300 yards against the Bruins including Nebraska in the bowl game loss.  The Bruins allowed 26 points per game. The defense was supposed to be strength last year but injuries to key players hampered the defensive efforts. Seven starters are back in 2016 for coordinator Tom Bradley.

Nose tackle Kenny Clark had 75 tackles and 6 sacks. He left early for the NFL draft and is now with the Green Bay Packers. Defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes is back after missing all of 2015 with a torn ACL. He had 5.5 tackles for loss in 2014. Takkarist McKinley will start at the other end. Eli Ankou takes over at nose tackle.

Linebacker Myles Jack missed all but 3 games last year with a knee injury and declared early for the NFL draft. He is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but had to have microfracture knee surgery. Jayon Brown led the Bruins in tackles last year with 93 and is back. Deon Hollins and Isaako Savaiinaea are also back at linebacker. Freshman Mique Juarez has the makings of a star.

All four starters are back in the secondary. While the rush defense was awful, the pass defense led the Pac 12. The corners will be Fabian Moreau and Marcus Rios. Moreau missed a large part of last season with a foot injury. Randall Goforth and Jaleel Wadood each had two picks at the safeties last year.

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Special Teams

Freshman kicker J.J. Molson has some large shoes to fill as he takes over for Lou Groza award winner Ka’imi Fairbairn. The Bruins will also have a freshman at punter in Austin Kent. Ishmael Adams will return punts and Mossi Johnson will return kicks.

Schedule and Outlook

The Bruins have a tough non-conference schedule with road games at Texas A&M and BYU, plus a home game against UNLV. In conference, Stanford, Arizona, Utah, Oregon State and USC come to Pasadena. The Bruins travel to Arizona State, Washington State, Colorado and California.

Defense is again expected to be a strength but they hope the avoid the injury bug that decimated the team last year. The Bruins have to replace a lot of key skill position players but Rosen should be better as a sophomore. He threw too many interceptions but that is to be expected with a true freshman starting at quarterback. Still I think this team wins the Pac 12 South and could win 9 or 10 games.

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