2007 Las Vegas Bowl - UCLA vs. BYU
UCLA DE Bruce Davis
UCLA DE Bruce Davis
Posted Dec 19, 2007

UCLA already beat BYU earlier this year, but things changed drastically the rest of the way for both teams. With most of the focus on the coaching search, can the Bruins pull it all together and finish on a high note? Check out the CFN 2007 Las Vegas Bowl Preview & Analysis.

UCLA (6-6) vs. BYU (10-2)

Dec. 22, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

Get Tickets for the Las Vegas Bowl 
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2007 Las Vegas Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More

National Rankings
Total Offense
96th  335.08 ypg 15th  457.58 ypg
Total Defense
34th  349.75 ypg 10th  307.17 ypg
Scoring Offense
90th  22.92 ppg 42nd  31.17 ppg
Scoring Defense
33rd  22.75 ppg 13th  18.75 ppg
Run Offense
62nd  150.08 ypg 58th  153.58 ypg
Run Defense
25th  115.42 ypg 9th  92.08 ypg
Pass Offense
99th  185 ypg 13th  304 ypg
Pass Defense
71st  234.33 ypg 41st  215.08  ypg
Turnover Margin
83rd  -0.33 92nd  -0.50
at Stanford W 45-17
BYU W 27-17
at Utah L 44-6
Washington W 44-31
at Oregon St W 40-14
Notre Dame L 20-6
California W 30-21
at Wash
State L 27-7
at Arizona L 34-27
Arizona St L 24-20
Oregon W 16-0
at USC L 24-7
Arizona W 20-7
at UCLA L 27-17
at Tulsa L 55-47
Air Force W 31-6
at N Mex W 31-24
at UNLV W 24-14
E. Wash W 42-7
Col St
W 35-16
TCU W 27-22
at Wyom. W 35-10
Utah W 17-10
at SDSU W 48-27
Position Ratings
relative to each other
UCLA 5 highest
1 lowest
3.5 Quarterbacks 3.5
3.5 RBs 4
3 Receivers 3.5
3 O Line 3.5
5 D Line 4
4 Linebackers 3.5
4 Secondary 3.5
4 Spec Teams 3
2 Coaching 4

Had BYU played Hawaii’s schedule, might the Cougars, not the Warriors, be playing in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day?

BYU isn’t exactly doing cartwheels over a third straight Las Vegas Bowl or another game with a middling Pac-10 opponent, particularly a rematch with a 6-6 UCLA team that fired its coach earlier this month.  The Cougars started slowly, losing to the Bruins and Tulsa in September, before tearing off nine wins in-a-row to snare a second straight outright Mountain West championship and climb all the way to No. 17 in the BCS standings.  Today’s BYU team is substantially better than the one that got out of the gate slowly, which is why many around Provo believe the Cougars are the best team outside the six major conferences, regardless of who’s playing where in the postseason. 

A little more than three months ago, BYU QB Max Hall and RB Harvey Unga had never started a game at this level.  Today, they’re the All-Mountain West first team quarterback and the Mountain West Freshman of the Year, respectively, shining symbols of how far the program has progressed since opening day.  Winners of 16 consecutive league games under Bronco Mendenhall, the Cougars are inching closer to the glory days when they were respected and feared on a national level.  Beating a Pac-10 team, even a feeble one, in the postseason for the second straight year would be another bold statement for a school that feels it’s gotten lost in Hawaii’s shadow this fall.                
Before the season began, UCLA appeared to be teed up for a run at 10 wins and a long-awaited return to the Rose Bowl.  And then reality set in for a program that’s underachieved and lacked consistency since Karl Dorrell was hired five years ago.  The low points of the 2007 rollercoaster ride have included a 44-6 loss to Utah, a 20-6 loss to Notre Dame, and a 27-7 loss to Washington State before the Bruins ran out of healthy quarterbacks in November.  Although a fifth straight invite to a second-rate bowl game will pad the coiffures a bit, it wasn’t enough to rescue Dorrell, who was sacked a day after losing to USC in the regular season finale.  Coaching the team in Las Vegas will be DeWayne Walker, the defensive coordinator and a possible candidate to replace Dorrell.

While its psyche may be battered from recent events, UCLA will be as close to full strength as it’s been in months.  At one point in November, the Bruins were relegated to starting a walk-on behind center, yet somehow remained mathematically alive for a Pac-10 title on the final weekend of the regular season.  Both starter and former BYU recruit Ben Olson and backup Patrick Cowan played versus the Trojans, and will be healthy for the bowl game.  That’ll be huge for a Bruin team that knows it has to move the ball in order to keep pace with an opponent that leads the Mountain West in scoring.

Players to watch: DE Jan Jorgensen has been to the BYU defense what Hall and Unga have been to the offense.  An emerging star in his sophomore year, he tops the league with 18 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks, but is also a rock in run defense.  A relentless worker on the field and in the film room, and a student of the game, he presents an enormous challenge for a UCLA offensive line that’s 103rd nationally in sacks allowed.  On offense, the Cougars have uncovered a versatile star in Unga, who’s aided Hall’s development as John Beck successor by picking up the tough yards on the ground, and catching short passes out of the backfield.  He’s rushed for 1,211 yards and 13 touchdowns, and caught 41 passes for 629 yards and four touchdowns, getting more productive as the season progressed.  

Whether it’s Olson or Cowan in the huddle, the UCLA quarterback will be looking to isolate WR Dominique Johnson, a budding playmaker in the Bruin receiving corps that’ll present match up problems for the BYU secondary.  At 6-4 with long arms and a bounce in his step, he’s a unique weapon that could blossom into a star in 2008.  When Hall drops back to pass, he’ll want to know where No. 44 and No. 23, DE Bruce Davis and CB Trey Brown, respectively, are at all times.  While Davis has the speed off the edge to blow up an offensive gameplan, Brown leads the country with 23 passes defended.  When these two seniors are on, you can forget about making plays downfield on UCLA.                 

UCLA will win if... Olson or Cowan can approach Hall’s production through the air.  It’s not going to be easy, but the Bruins must regain the offensive balance that was lost when their top two quarterbacks were on the shelf.  You’re not going to beat the Mountain West’s best defense with a one-dimensional attack, so it’ll be up to the passing game to give LBs Bryan Kehl and Kelly Poppinga, and the rest of the Cougar defense a reason not to stack the line to stop RB Chris Markey.        

BYU will win if... Unga is permitted to run wild.  The Cougars can still chuck it with the best of them, but when there’s a power running game in the mix, their offense becomes downright unstoppable.  If Unga is consistently getting to the second level, it’ll open things up for Hall to play catch with TE Dennis Pitta and top receiver Austin Collie.  Although the Bruin secondary is dominated by veterans, it allows 234 yards a game, and has been prone to occasional breakdowns versus established passing teams.           

What will happen: Where are the Bruins’ heads these days?  This is a senior-laden team playing in a consolation bowl game without their head coach.  BYU, on the other hand, delights at the opportunity to beat any Pac-10 team when the entire nation is in attendance.  The Cougars will roll on the strength of a balanced offense and a defense that’s vastly underrated.    

BYU -5.5 ... CFN Prediction: BYU 31 ... UCLA 19

2007 Las Vegas Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More