GAME NOTES: UCLA will look to rebound after a drop out of the national rankings against a Colorado squad riding the momentum of its first win of the season, as the Bruins and Buffaloes square off at Folsom Field on Saturday.
After climbing to No. 19 in the top-25 with wins in its first three games, UCLA dropped out of the rankings with a 27-20 loss at home to Oregon State, which subsequently took over the No. 18 spot in the poll. The Bruins were held scoreless in two of the four quarters in the loss after being shutout only once in 12 previous quarters. The Bruins are now 3-1 overall but off to an 0-1 start in conference play.
It didn't look as if Buffalo had much of a chance heading into a road contest against Washington State last weekend. It didn't matter as the Buffaloes rallied from 17 points down in the fourth quarter to capture a 35-34 win on Jordan Webb's four-yard touchdown run with nine seconds remaining. The Buffaloes won only two games in conference play last season but are off to a 1-0 start.
This will be only the second time these two teams meet as conference foes. Last season, Colorado's inaugural campaign in the Pac-12, the Bruins were not very welcoming as they posted a 45-6 win at the Rose Bowl. Overall the Bruins hold a 5-2 edge in the all-time series.
The major reason for UCLA's early season ascension was the offense, especially the play of running back Johnathan Franklin and red shirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley. On the season the two have combined for 1,936 of the squad's 2,310 yards of total offense.
Hundley has played very well in his first year as the starter, completing 66.2 percent of his passes for 1,199 yards and nine scores to only three interceptions. He ranks second in the conference in passing yards this season after having a 372-yard performance against Oregon State. Hundley is the first UCLA quarterback ever to throw for 300 or more yards in three straight games. Hundley is also the team's second leading rusher with 151 yards on the ground.
Franklin had a less impressive game with only 50 yards rushing, but the running back has still been a force this season with a Pac-12 leading 586 yards rushing, which ranks third nationally.
Overall UCLA is the top team in the Pac-12 in total offense (577.5 ypg) this season, while ranking third nationally. The team has been prolific on offense despite struggling in third down situations where it has converted only 18- of-63 attempts.
UCLA's opponents are not scoring at such a high clip as the Bruins (21.8 ppg) despite the Bruins allowing 421.5 yards of total offense per contest. The defense has kept opposing squads from converting third downs (20-for-64), while accumulating 14 sacks and 13 turnovers, including eight interceptions
Anthony Barr has been the enforcer for the defense with a team-leading five sacks and seven tackles for loss. Eric Kendricks is the lead tackler with 32 total stops, while Sheldon Price has been adept at making plays on the ball, tying for the national lead with four interceptions on the season.
The 35 points scored by Buffaloes in its thrilling win over Washington State was the most scored by the team this season and more than the total points combined in the squad's two previous games against FBS competition. Colorado scored 28 in a loss to Sacramento State of the FCS.
Webb, who has been much maligned this season, was awarded the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week award after scoring the game-winning touchdown against Washington State. In all, Webb threw for 345 yards and two scores on 29-of-42 passing and scored a pair of touchdowns. The game helped improve the look of Webb's season numbers, as the signal caller has now thrown for 777 yards, despite completing only 56.7 percent of his passes.
Nelson Spruce and Tyler McCulloch have formed a nice pass-catching duo for Webb to throw to. Spruce has caught a team-high 21 passes for 234 yards and has an eight-catch, 103-yard effort to his name this season, which came against Washington State. McCulloch ranks second on the team in most receiving categories, including receptions (12), yards (169) and catches of 10 or more yards (seven).
In terms of running the ball, Colorado has relied mainly on Christian Powell (62 carries, 278 yards, three TDs), while Tony Jones (22 carries, 150 yards, 6.82 ypc) has been an explosive threat.
As would be expected of a team that is just 1-3 this season, Colorado has not been strong defensively. The Buffaloes are giving up 470 yards per game this season, while surrendering a conference worst 38.8 points per game.
Three different players have at least 30 tackles this season for Colorado. Jon Major is the team leader with 35 stops, while Kenneth Crawley (32) and Terrel Smith (31) have also reached the mark. Chidera Uzo-Diribe leads the team with an impressive five sacks.
If UCLA is really a team that deserves to be considered a contender it needs to win here. Colorado escaped with a win against a weak Washington State team and even with that momentum at home, the Buffs will struggle against Franklin, who should bounce back.