UCLA Bruins at Rice Owls – Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas
7:30 pm EST – CBS Sports Network
Jim Mora returns to the coaching realm as the head of the UCLA Bruins and will make his debut in Houston against the Rice Owls in an NCAA Football opening night match-up.
Last season with less than a week until the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game, head coach Rick Neuheisel was fired, but was allowed to continue coaching the Bruins in the postseason. UCLA went 5-4 in the Pac-12, but due to postseason restrictions on their cross-town rivals USC Trojans, the Bruins were able to secure the South Division bid in the championship game, which they went on to lose to the Oregon Ducks 31-49 and to the Illinois Fighting Illini 14-20 in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
Mora will have at his disposal running back Johnathan Franklin, who could go down as the Bruins all-time leading rusher, despite little fan-fare in Los Angeles. Redshirt freshman Brett Hundley is expected to be an exciting quarterback to watch in Noel Mazzone’s spread offense, despite a questionable offensive line.
The Bruins defense allowed an average of 417.1 yards per game in 2011, ranked 89th in the nation in total defense and 92nd in the FBS in points allowed, averaging 31.4 points per game to opponents, but have switched to a 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator Lou Spanos and are hoping for a turnaround on the defensive side of the ball.
UCLA will face a Rice offense that was ranked 91st in the country a year ago, averaging 347.7 yards per game in total offense, but are counting on QB Taylor McHargue to be more consistent than he was a year ago, when he lost the starting job twice.
Part of the key to the Owls success this year falls on the shoulders of running back/wide receiver Sam McGuffie. McGuffie, who played his freshman season for the Michigan Wolverines before transferring and sitting out the 2009 season, is also looking for a bounce-back year after posting nine receptions for 72 yards and one touchdown and 158 yards and one score on 38 carries.
UCLA is heavily favored by over two touchdowns against Rice, and should easily cover the spread as they chase USC in an uphill battle for the South Division.
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