Week 2 Game Matchup: UCLA Bruins VS. Tennessee Volunteers
UCLA Bruins (1-0) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (1-0)
Saturday, September 12, 1:00 PM PST
Las Vegas Favorite: Tennessee -9.0
Sam’s Take (8 – 1):
I see a lot of similarities in the Vols and Bruins. Both teams feature very good defenses full of all-conference performers, and both offenses are loaded with young, explosive skill-position talent.
In my opinion, the big difference between the two programs is at the quarterback position. Tennessee QB Jonathan Crompton is an experienced senior that has looked outstanding from the day Lane Kiffin and Co. arrived in Knoxville.
Certainly his performances in past seasons have driven Vols fans crazy, but after an excellent spring and an encouraging five-touchdown day against Western Kentucky, Crompton really has the look of a brand new QB. Now he will have to prove how far he has come against a great defense that fared well against him last year.
The Bruins, on the other hand, will send a freshman QB into one of the most hostile environments in the country. There is no denying the talent of Kevin Prince, but this game will be a tall order for him, especially since the UCLA offensive line is still a work in progress. It is critical that he resists the urge to force throws into tight spaces, as he is facing an elite, ball-hawking secondary. He has plenty of weapons (Embree, Austin, Rosario, Paulsen etc.), but his decision-making must be better than it was last Saturday. This game will be a great opportunity for Prince to show what he’s made of.
I expect both teams to use a lot of freshmen on offense. Vols fans got a taste of what heralded true freshman RB Bryce Brown could do (104 -rushing yards, one TD), and I was also impressed with freshman RB David Oku. Both tailbacks should see time behind starter Montario Hardesty. I am also impressed by freshman WR Marsalis Teague, who has Tennessee fans raving about his ability.
For UCLA, I expect to see freshmen Jonathan Franklin, Milton Knox, and Damien Thigpen all involved at running back along with sophomore Derrick Coleman. Norm Chow may also use lightning fast WR Randall Carroll (also a freshman) in order to stretch the Vols D.
As mentioned before, both defenses are excellent. UCLA started slowly against SDSU, but they were exceptional after the first quarter. Obviously Tennessee is also strong on D, especially now that defensive genius Monte Kiffin has installed his famous “Tampa 2” system. I expect S Eric Berry to be even better than he has been because of Kiffin’s system, so the Bruins must be aware of his presence at all times.
In the end, I expect a game effort from the Bruins, but the margin for error is very small for Prince. I think the Vols will be a little too tough at Neyland Stadium, and a few UCLA mistakes should be the difference.
Prediction: Tennessee 31 – UCLA 20
UCLA Player to Keep an Eye On: CB Courtney Viney - With Aaron Hester sidelined with an injury, Viney will need to step up this Saturday. Crompton may look to attack him early.
Tennessee Player to Keep an Eye On: The Entire Offensive Line - This is a massive front that routinely sprung the talented stable of running backs last week. It is critical that DT Brian Price and the rest of the Bruins d-line hold up in this battle.
Dave’s Take (8 – 1):
Tennessee is buzzing after a dominant 63-point performance last week, but let’s calm down Vols fans, it was just Western Kentucky. Tennessee’s offense will have a substantially tougher time putting points on the board against this stout UCLA defense.
Obviously the defense can’t afford to get off to a slow start like they did last week. Down 14-3 at home against San Diego State is quite a bit different from being down two scores on the road against Tennessee.
With last year’s game really setting the tone for a disastrous season last year, the revenge factor will definitely be pumping in Tennessee’s favor this time around. But the real story here will be quarterback Kevin Prince.
This looks like it will be a very difficult day for Prince. It’s hard enough to go into an extremely hostile environment, but to do so with a battered up offensive line against a tough defensive line, as well as having one of the absolute best in the nation in Eric Berry up against you? Not exactly a fun way to get your career started on the road.
I expect Tennessee to do a good job defending against the run and forcing Prince to try to beat them, which could spell trouble. He’s got a bright future ahead of him, but expecting a mistake free day this Saturday might be asking too much.
I see Tennessee having difficulty putting points on the board as well, especially if UCLA’s defensive line can control the tempo. This game should be one of those ugly battle-for-every-inch types, with Tennessee’s home field advantage and thirst for revenge giving them the edge.
Prediction: Tennessee 20 – UCLA 13