Game-By-Game Predictions for UCLA's 2014 Season
The inaugural College Football Playoff kicks off January 1, 2015, and oddsmakers are giving Mora and UCLA a chance to make it into football's Final Four.
Sure, it may be a slight chance — Bovada gives UCLA 12/5 odds to make the College Football Playoff, which are among the weakest odds of any NCAA football team listed by the sportsbook. But its a measure of respect to even be listed, and establishes that the Bruins come into the season with Top-10 expectations.
And why shouldn't they? Quarterback Brett Hundley returns and is a solid Heisman Trophy candidate. Myles Jack is back after becoming the first player in history to win both Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year and Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. The expectations are high and the schedule is challenging, but UCLA benefits from outstanding continuity and strong recruiting.
Let's break down the schedule game-by-game and evaluate whether these Bruins are indeed a College Football Playoff team.
Aug. 30, at Virginia - WARNING: This game begins at freakin' 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time on a Saturday, California people. But the Bruins could sleep through their alarms and still cover the spread on this one, as the Virginia Cavaliers are possibly the worst team in the ACC. (Prediction: Win)
Sept. 6, vs. Memphis - This 7:00 p.m. PT Saturday night start time is more like it! The Bruins host the Memphis Tigers, who will come in with just the goal of finishing within two or three touchdowns. (Prediction: Win)
Sept. 13, at Texas - Another prime-timer (well, 5 p.m. PT). An away game against the Texas Longhorns in the Dallas Cowboys' stadium is somehow considered to be on a "neutral field", so the crowd will be a wild card in Texas' pocket. So will Texas' double-threat running back attack of Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown, but new coach Charlie Strong hasn't got a deep enough squad to knock off UCLA. (Prediction: Win)
Sept. 25, at Arizona State - There's plenty of prime time on the UCLA's early schedule, and here's your Thursday nighter. The conference schedule opens at the road against the defending Pac-12 South champs, and ESPN gets what it wants because both teams are likely to come in undefeated. But Arizona State has lost substantial defensive talent and hasn't had a rigorous test yet. (Prediction: Win)
Oct. 4 vs. Utah - Oh, college football on a Saturday afternoon -- like normal people! Utah has a great receiver in Dres Anderson, but few standouts elsewhere. (Prediction: Win)
Oct. 11 vs. Oregon - Oregon is the fashionable Pac-12 favorite, but people forget that Bralon Addison may be lost for the season and the Ducks don't have another solid downfield threat. The ESPN College GameDay crew may be on campus, and Lee Corso will regret his donning of a duck head. (Prediction: Win)
Oct. 18 at California - Cal is fielding its worst team in a generation. I know there is a letdown game risk, but this one will not even seem fair. (Prediction: Win)
Oct. 25 at Colorado - The Buffaloes are still adjusting to joining the Pac-12, and are lucky to win one here and there. They won't win one here. (Prediction: Win)
Nov. 1 vs. Arizona - Arizona has some outstanding transfer receivers in Cayleb Jones and Davonte Neal, but not much depth elsewhere and questions on defense. (Prediction: Win)
Nov. 8 at Washington - I'm a huge fan of new Huskies coach Chris Peterson, and this team could be trouble for years to come. But UCLA has a pretty good coach too, and Jim Mora might wrap up a North division title today. (Prediction: Win)
Nov 22, vs. USC - The Victory Bell Rivalry brings a much tougher USC team to the Rose Bowl this year. Steve Sarkisian and the Trojans are contenders in the conference again, but their defense is not good enough to hold the Bruins in check. (Prediction: Win)
Nov. 28, vs. Stanford - Another great reason to avoid the mall on Black Friday -- this game comes on at 12:30 p.m. PT Friday afternoon. This should be a fantastic fight of elite Pac-12 teams. But as great as UCLA is this year, it is not an undefeated season-caliber team. One loss is bound to come up somewhere this year, and I think Stanford is the Pac-12 team deep and disciplined enough to cause it. Consolation prize? Guess whom UCLA might play again one week later for the Pac-12 Championship. (Prediction: Loss)
Dec. 5 Pac-12 Championship Game - But be careful what you wish for. The Pac-12 Championship is being played in the San Francisco 49ers' new facility Levi's Stadium -- about 13 miles from the Stanford campus. If UCLA is going to make the College Football Playoff, it's going to have to earn it with a difficult win in the conference championship.
Conference championship predictions in summertime are inherently sketchy. Are there dark horses, unconsidered Pac-12 factors or accusations that I am just full of it? Let's hear about it in the comments section below.
2014 Projected UCLA Record: 11-1 (8-1)