The Bruins and Tigers will be at the center of the college football universe Saturday night, and anticipation is growing by the minute.
UCLA football (1-0) will play No. 16 LSU for the first time in program history at the Rose Bowl this weekend. The Bruins are 12-12-2 all-time against SEC opponents, having won their most recent of such games and five of their last six, while the Tigers are 15-3 against Pac-12 opponents and undefeated in their last 12 outings.
This LSU team is a vastly different one from the one that won the 2019 national championship, and even considerably different from last year's 5-5 squad. With new coordinators on both sides of the ball, a new full-time starting quarterback and new leaders in the front seven, there's a lot up in the air when it comes to what these Tigers bring to the table.
All Bruins is making its picks for who will win, what the score will be and how the game will play out, courtesy of Managing Editor Sam Connon, contributing writer Benjamin Royer and guest predictor Liam Blutman from The Transfer Portal CFB.
Sam Connon, Managing Editor
Prediction: LSU 37, UCLA 34
A lot of people are expecting the Tigers' defense to get fixed overnight, but I disagree.
LSU allowed nearly 500 yards per game in 2020, and now it's missing some of the experienced starters from that team while also bringing in Daronte Jones – who has never been a lead play-caller in his career – as defensive coordinator. The fresh start on the sidelines could lead to success over time, just not in Week 1.
Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson has the talent and football IQ to take advantage, as long as he improves on his outing against Hawaii last week. Assuming he does that, UCLA's offense should have another efficient and high-octane performance through the air and on the ground.
That being said, I don't think the Bruins will be able to replicate the defensive clinic they put on in Week 0.
Hawaii had virtually no playmakers and a physically limited quarterback. LSU has a much more physical dual-threat passer with a far higher ceiling and the ability to turn broken plays into first downs at will in the form of Max Johnson. He's not an All-American or future first rounder, but he is still the kind of quarterback who can exploit the weaknesses UCLA showed last week in taking guys down behind the line of scrimmage and finishing plays.
Cornerbacks Cam Johnson and Obi Eboh are going to have to be all-conference level talents on Saturday in order to shut down receiver Kayshon Boutte, while any wideout the Bruins line up outside is probably going to be a nonfactor thanks to cornerback Derek Stingley.
The talent discrepancy both outside the numbers and in the trenches is going to be a rude awakening from last week's all-around dominant performance. Even with big days out of Thompson-Robinson, running back Zach Charbonnet, running back Brittain Brown and tight end Greg Dulcich, it likely won't be enough to keep pace with what Johnson and Boutte are doing on the other side of the ball.
Benjamin Royer, contributing writer
Prediction: LSU 38, UCLA 31
The last time LSU coach Ed Orgeron faced UCLA, he was the interim head coach for USC. The Trojans lost 35-14, costing Orgeron a chance at becoming the permanent option on the other side of LA.
That 2013 game was a tense and offensively-charged matchup for the Bruins. This Saturday will be no different.
Orgeron brings the Tigers into the Rose Bowl just two years removed from a national championship victory. Even though the No. 16 team in the country is coming off of a below average 5-5 campaign in 2020, the Tigers will start their season with a win versus the Bruins.
Yes, the Bruins did have a much better start to their 2021 season than years prior. Charbonnet won the Maxwell Award Player of the Week with his eye-catching Bruin debut. 106 yards and three touchdowns is an impressive stat line any way you look at it, and especially so when you consider it was on just six carries.
The Bruins will try to get Charbonnet and his tailback partner Brown heavily involved again, and while they should be able to have some success on that front, Saturday's game will be won and lost with the passing game.
Thompson-Robinson will play against an LSU defense that allowed 320 passing yards per game in 2020. Thompson-Robinson will get more comfortable on the field and his performance versus the Tigers should be better than the 10-for-20 effort against the Rainbow Warriors. Look for Dulcich to get involved more than the one reception he caught against Hawaii.
The third-year starter will keep UCLA in the game, but the Tigers have the tools to dismantle the Bruins secondary.
243 of the 269 yards Hawaii put on the stat sheet last week came from the air. One could assume LSU will attack UCLA the same way.
Led by Johnson, the Tigers will overwhelm the Bruins through the air. The first-year starter had eight touchdowns, one interception and threw for 1069 yards in 2020, becoming a bright spot for the Tigers late in the season.
UCLA defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro will need to search for new answers heading into practice on Monday.
Liam Blutman, Owner of The Transfer Portal CFB
Prediction: UCLA 35, LSU 30
If you asked me for my thoughts on this game a week ago, I’d have told you LSU by double digits. Which of course is still in the realm of possibility, but us UCLA fans tend to become optimists very quickly despite being ever so pessimistic just moments ago.
So here I am and here you all are, ever so optimistic that UCLA wins this game against SEC royalty – LSU’s vicious Tigers.
Am I afraid of Boutte? Yes. Stingley ? Yup. Eli Ricks? Ok, I need to stop scaring myself and focus on the good. UCLA’s run game is good. Left tackle Sean Rhyan will be a top-25 pick, one of the best in the country at his position. The way he and the rest of the Bruin line create significant holes is so promising for our lethal ground attack.
And I’ve always loved how creative coach Chip Kelly gets with his run designs, so once again, I was salivating watching this dominant run game last week. I expect them to run plenty against LSU, and I think we’ll see DTR use his legs a good bit and wreak havoc on the ground.
I am going out on a limb and saying DTR scores the game-winning touchdown on the ground after the defense creates a key turnover late in the game.
Here’s to hoping we don’t all question why we were such optimists yet again, and Geaux Bruins!
Follow Connon on Twitter at @SamConnon
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