Nevada Wolfpack at No. 21 UCLA Bruins Preview
After what he was able to do in his first year with the program, expectations are sky high for the UCLA Bruins and Jim Mora in year two. They start on the path to another Pac 12 South Division title with a season opener in Pasadena against the Nevada Wolfpack. The Bruins will need to take care of business against a dangerous Wolfpack squad that will be sure to test the young defense of UCLA with their vaunted pistol attack.
Nevada will be without hall-of-fame coach Chris Ault following the founding father of the pistol offense’s retirement, but the Wolfpack are in good hands with Ault-disciple Brian Polian taking over. He has vowed to continue using the offense that Ault perfected with a roster tailor-made to be successful with it. Cody Fajardo returns at quarterback after leading the offense last season with 3,907 total yards and 32 total touchdowns. He’s a dual-threat QB who will put points on the board if given any room to breathe.
His versatility will test a UCLA defense that will be breaking in some new faces this fall. The Bruins have just five returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, led by All-American candidate Anthony Barr at linebacker. Barr is the nation’s leading returning sack artist in 2013 after recording 13.5 sacks last season, his first as a defensive player after switching from the fullback position. He leads a talented linebacker group, but will need some help from young defensive linemen like true freshman Eddie Vanderdoes.
The Bruins will have some of the pressure taken off their young defense by their talent-heavy and experienced offense. Brett Hundley will look to build off his school-record breaking freshman season of 2012 when he accounted for 4,095 yards of total offense, throwing for 29 touchdowns and rushing for nine more. He’ll take on even more of the offense in 2013 as the Bruins sort out their backfield by committee, which should also mean big things for wide receiver Shaquelle Evans.
Nevada offers up a unique challenge with their up-tempo, high-octane offense that will test the young defense of UCLA. Will the Bruins’ offense put up enough points to keep the Wolfpack at bay or will Nevada score a second-straight season-opening win over the Pac 12?