After a 10-3 season and a Sun Bowl win over Virginia Tech, the UCLA Bruins have high expectations for the 2014 campaign, especially with top quarterback Brett Hundley returning. With this being the first year for the College Football Playoff, the Bruins would consider the season a failure if they weren’t one of the top four teams.
Having quite the opposite amount of success as UCLA, the Virginia Cavaliers finished the 2013 season with a 2-10 record, including nine straight losses to end the season. Playing in the same conference as the reigning national champion will be tough to even make noise, but with 16 starters returning, this could be a surprise year for Virginia.
The Bruins, as stated earlier, are returning Heisman hopeful quarterback Brett Hundley, which means that there will be little to no offensive problems. Hundley’s accuracy makes NFL teams drool and makes his college opponents dread lining up across from him. He passed for over 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns last season while completing a little over 67 percent of his passes. While the receiving corps lost a lot of talent in Shaquelle Evans from last year’s team, they return top targets in Devin Fuller and Jordan Payton. The run game will be fine as well as it returns nearly 90 percent of its production from last season behind Jordon James and Paul Perkins.
Virginia’s offense was one of the worst in the ACC last season and if it weren’t for the seven returning starters on this side of the ball, they, the Cavaliers would be in for another season of offensive torture. The Cavaliers will be with a new quarterback this season, however, who happens to be sophomore Greyson Lambert who is expected to take the reigns of the job and do big things. Lambert, however, has just one returning starter in the receiving corps to throw to as Keeon Johnson will be relied upon heavily along with Darius Jennings. The run game will be improved behind the school’s first 1,000-yard rusher in over a decade, Kevin Parks, and the electric Taquan Mizzell.
Defensively, the Cavaliers are returning nine starters from a unit that ranked in the middle of the pack in total defense in 2013. Virginia allowed 33.3 points, good for 98th nationally, and 403.6 yards per game, good for 65th nationally. The Bruins were a bit better defensively and they, too, return a good amount of starters with eight coming back. Jim Mora‘s defense ranked 35th in scoring, allowing just 23.2 points per contest, and 54th in total defense, allowing 387.1 yards per game.
The UCLA Bruins will travel to Virginia to take on the Cavaliers at 12 p.m. EST on Saturday, Aug. 30. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.
PREDICTION: Virginia 17, UCLA 34
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.