UCLA Preview 2006

Posted Aug 8, 2006

Going 10-2 would be reason to do cartwheels at most schools, but it feels a little empty at UCLA only because of what's going on in another part of town.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

By almost any measure, UCLA had a fabulous year full of thrilling comebacks, a win over Oklahoma, and a Sun Bowl victory over Northwestern, but yet another march to the BCS by USC and a humiliating 66-14 loss to the hated Trojans put a sour note on last year. The biggest problem now isn't trying to keep up with the Joneses, or, the Carrolls, it's trying to be as good as last year.

Forgetting how badly the Bruins were blown out by USC, at least they were in a position to make some really big things happen. Think about where UCLA was last year before the first Saturday in November. At 9-1 they had a chance to win a tie of the Pac 10 title, would've gone to the BCS with a win over USC, and very possibly would've played for the national title considering the love and respect the Trojans were getting at the time. QB Drew Olson would've been a last-second Heisman candidate and this would be the hot program going into 2006. Just to be in that kind of a spot shows how far the program has come in a short time under head coach Karl Dorrell, but expect a slip this year.

Head coach: Karl Dorrell 
4th year, (22-15)
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 24, Def. 22, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten Best UCLA Players
QB Ben Olson, Soph.
2. PK Justin Medlock, Sr.
3. OG Shannon Tevaga, Jr.
4. DT Kevin Brown, Jr.
5. DE Justin Hickman, Sr.
6. CB Trey Brown, Jr.
7. RB Chris Markey, Jr.
8. WR Joe Cowan, Sr.
9. WR Junior Taylor, Sr.
10. FB Michael Pitre, Jr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 Utah
9/9 Rice
9/23 at Washington
9/30 Stanford
10/7 Arizona
10/14 at Oregon
10/21 at Notre Dame
10/28 Washington State
11/4 at California
11/11 Oregon State
11/18 at Arizona State
12/2 USC 

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-5
2005 Record: 10-2

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 at San Diego St W 44-21
9/10 Rice W 63-21
9/17 Oklahoma W 41-24
10/1 Washington W 21-17
10/8 California W 47-41
10/15 at Wash St W 44-41 OT
10/22 Oregon State W 51-28
10/29 at Stanford  W 30-27 OT
11/5 at Arizona L 52-14
11/12 Arizona State W 45-35
12/3 at USC L 66-19 
12/30 Sun Bowl
Northwestern W 50-38

For one thing, UCLA can't afford to play with fire in every game again. There were four fourth quarter comebacks along with a thrilling second half comeback to beat Arizona State. There was a fantastic year by Olson, who couldn't seem to do any wrong before the USC game, which will have a hard time being repeated by the new Olson, Ben. And then there was the run defense, which was the second-worst in America and was saved only by the prolific offense.

This year's UCLA team has to replace the entire linebacking corps, is still smallish up front for a national power program, loses top playmakers Olson, Maurice Drew and TE Marcedes Lewis from the offense, and lacks proven playmakers on both sides of the ball. Factor all that into a better Pac 10 and it'll be a stunner if UCLA can even dream about double-digit wins at some point this year.

Expect more high scoring games and several young players to quickly grow into Pac 10 household names, after all, this is an athletic team, but also consider this a stepping stone season to 2007 when the team will be loaded with experience. The Bruins just hope the road to rebuilding isn't too rocky.

The Schedule: It's not bad as long as the Bruins can play well at home. With the offense UCLA should have, it has a puncher's chance on the road against Notre Dame and should be able to hold its own at Oregon, Cal, and Arizona State. Winning two of those four would be a huge success, but the key will be winning in Pasadena where victories against Utah, Rice, Stanford, Arizona, Washington State and Oregon State are a must before the season ender against USC.

Best Offensive Player: Junior OG Shannon Tevaga. QB Ben Olson is the key to the season, but Tevaga is a critical player on the young line mostly due to his size. At 310 pounds, he's one of the team's biggest lineman and he needs to not only be an anchor and a leader, he also has to be the team's key run blocker.

Best Defensive Player: Junior DT Kevin Brown. On a defense woefully shy of sure-thing playmakers, the 297-pound Brown has to be the key factor in toughening up the run defense. He missed all of last season with an ankle problem that was missing his quickness inside and his beef against the run. If he's fine all year he'll be in the mix for All-Pac 10 honors.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Ben Olson. He lost the quarterback derby last year to Drew Olson because he had accuracy issues, and then Drew came out and was one of the nation's most efficient passers. Now the big BYU transfer looks ready to not only be a leader, but a star. The offense needs a mature, steady ringleader, and Olson should be it.

The season will be a success if ... UCLA finishes in the top four of the Pac 10. There are simply way, way too many question marks and way too much youth to reasonable expect a run for the Pac 10 title. The rest of the league is too good for the Bruins to finish second, but a top four finish would mean the program didn't slide all that much before what should be a big 2007.

Key game: Oct. 14 at Oregon. If UCLA is above-average, it should at least be 4-1 going into the nasty road trip to Eugene, and should reasonably expect to be 5-0. A win at Oregon would do wonders for the young team's confidence going into the Notre Dame game and would be a must with Pac 10 games ahead against heavyweights Cal, Arizona State and USC.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Fourth quarter scoring: UCLA 156 - Opponents 68
- First quarter scoring: Opponents 132 - UCLA 83
- Average yards per carry: Opponents 5.4 - UCLA 4.4

The Last Time UCLA…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Sun Bowl vs. Northwestern)
…missed a bowl game…2001
…pitched a shutout…2004 (Stanford)
…was shutout…2001 (USC)
…scored 50 points…2005 (Northwestern)
…went undefeated…1954
…won a conference title…1998 (Pac-10)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2005 (Drew Olson)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2004 (Maurice Drew)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2003 (Craig Bragg)
…had a first-round draft choice…2002 (LB Robert Thomas)

Related Stories
UCLA Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006
UCLA Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006
UCLA Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006

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