8:00 PM EST, FOX – Line: Oklahoma -22.5, Over/Under; 72.5
A pair of programs traveling in very different directions clash tonight, as the struggling UCLA Bruins play host to the No. 5 Oklahoma Sooners, from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Few schools have found it easier to reload than Oklahoma (2-0, 0-0 in Big XII), who after sending yet another Heisman Quarterback, along with a number of playmakers, to the NFL, continue to run up the score on their competition. You can thank Lincoln Riley for that, for the offensive mastermind has cultivated this program into the machine that you see today. Indeed, the 36-Year Old was arguably the most sought-after Head Coach on the market during the Offseason, with a number of NFL franchises knocking on his door trying to get him to leave Norman. Though he’s only entering his third year leading the Sooners, he’s already managed to build a considerable resume; in his first two years on the job, Riley has gone 24-4 (.857), including a pair of Big XII Championships, plus trips to the College Football Playoff, while mentoring each of the last two Heisman winners, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, who each went No. One Overall in the NFL Draft. Indeed, it may just be a matter of time before he leaves for greener pastures, but in the meantime, his charges are once again poised to challenge for a place in the Playoff. Through their first two games of the campaign, Oklahoma have averaged a whopping 59.5 Points per Game (3rd Overall) on 709.5 Total Yards of Offense, including 377.5 Yards through the air and another 332.0 Yards on the ground. In fact, they’re putting up nearly as many yards via the pass as their opponents have managed altogether (378.0 Y/G). A lot of that has to do with the presence of their new Quarterback, Jalen Hurts (82.9%, 592 YDS, 14.4 Y/A, 6 TD, 0 INT), who transferred from Alabama in the Offseason, and thanks to the NCAA’s new transfer rules, was afforded the luxury of playing immediately. Of course, Hurts had spent the previous three years leading the way for the Crimson Tide, before ultimately losing his starting job to Tua Tagovailoa. Needless to say, it’s not often that Quarterback with his credentials becomes available, and given their recent history with the position, Oklahoma was an easy sell. And it’s with that said that Hurts has made Sooners fans forget the likes of Mayfield and Murray in the short term, taking to Riley’s prolific Offense with ease; in two games he’s completed a career-high 82.9% of his Passes for 591 Yards on 14.4 Yards per Attempt, with Six Touchdowns in comparison to Zero Interceptions. Furthermore, he’s remained a threat with his legs, rushing for another 223 Yards and three more scores on a stellar 9.3 Yards per Carry. So how does he stack up to his predecessors you ask? At 407 Total Yards per Game on a remarkable 12.5 Yards per Play, the Signal-Caller compares quite favorably to the aforementioned Murray, who averaged 383.0 Total Yards per Game on 10.4 Yards per Play last season, and Mayfield before him at 352.7 Total yards per Game and 9.9 Yards per Play in their respective Heisman seasons. He’s got quite a bit of talent surrounding him as well, particularly in the Passing Game where the likes of Charleston Rambo (6 REC, 135 YDS, 22.5 Y/R, 2 TD), CeeDee Lamb (8 REC, 190 YDS, 23.8 Y/R, 2 TD), and Jadon Haselwood (5 REC, 124 YDS, 24.8 Y/R, 1 TD) have been big-play machines in the early stages of the season, with each player averaging over 20.0 Yards per Reception. Furthermore, despite being their leading rusher as well, Hurts is buoyed in the backfield by a pair of talented Tailbacks, Trey Sermon (20 CAR, 147 YDS, 7.4 Y/C, 1 TD) and Rhamondre Stevenson (12 CAR, 145 YDS, 12.1 Y/C, 2 TD), who have averaged over 7.0 Yards per Carry apiece. Now a Junior, Lamb absolutely went OFF in last year’s meeting with UCLA, reeling in Seven Receptions for 146 Yards, including a Thirty-Five Yards Touchdown in the 49-21 rout of the Bruins. After allowing the first score of the game, the Sooners mercilessly ran off Forty-Two Unanswered Points, reminding us just how explosive they can be once they build some momentum. When it was all said and one, Oklahoma ran off 485 Total Yards on Twenty-Seven First Downs, despite committing the game’s lone Turnover.
Meanwhile, things couldn’t have possibly gotten off to a worse start at UCLA (0-2, 0-0 in Pac-12), where the Bruins have lost their first two contests of the season for the second consecutive year. Needless to say, this can’t be how Chip Kelly envisioned his grand return to College Football, for in just over a year with the program, he’s managed to lead them to a dismal 3-11 overall record (.214). In 2018, the Bruins lost their first five games of the season before finally getting into the win column, and by the look of things, it may be a while before they get to feel that sensation again; after tonight’s tilt with juggernaut Oklahoma, they travel to No. 20 Washington State and then Arizona, before a home date with Oregon State. It’s a cruel irony for Kelly, who not long ago WAS Lincoln Riley. With his unique brand of Offense revolutionizing College Football, Kelly quickly succeeded the venerable Mike Bellotti at Oregon, where he would go on to earn a 46-7 record (.868) over the next four seasons, including three Pac-12 Championships, and a trip to the 2010 BCS National Championship Game. Of course, his success led him to the next level where he became the Philadelphia Eagles’ Head Coach (2013-2015), and later the San Francisco 49ers’ (2016). Unfortunately, Kelly never quite caught on in the NFL, where he was fired from both posts, posting a cumulative 28-35 record (.444), often alienating players and executives, while his once cutting-edge Offense, became rudimentary and simplistic. After a year away from the sidelines, Kelly has returned to the Pac-12 as a nearly unrecognizable figure, waste deep in a sinking program featuring poor recruiting classes and even worse, lagging attendance. One look at these Bruins and you’d be hard-pressed to find any of Kelly’s fingerprints throughout the Offense; UCLA is averaging just 14.0 Points per Game (121st Overall) on 239.5 Total Yards, including 177.5 Yards through the air, and an abysmal 62.0 Yards on the ground. Think about that figure for a second, folks. At Oregon, his Offense never churned out fewer than 231.0 Rushing Yards per Game, and this one can’t even crack 70.0. In fact, their 1.8 Yards per Carry is the lowest in not only the Pac-12, but that of any Power-5 Conference. Each of their defeats thus far, 14-24 at Cincinnati and 14-23 at home against San Diego State, were eerily similar to one another, with the Offense proving unproductive and mistake-prone, committing a total of Six Turnovers, while the Defense ran out of gas after spending too much time on the field. The latter of the two losses was particularly harrowing, for that marked the first time in twenty-three meetings that the Bruins managed to fall to the Aztecs. After taking an early 7-0 lead, the hosts relinquished Seventeen Unanswered Points, en route to getting outscored 23-7 the rest of the way. Sophomore Quarterback, Dorian Thompson-Robinson (52.5%, 355 YDS, 5.8 Y/A, 3 TD, 2 INT) was much more efficient than he was in the Season Opener, completing 24-35 Attempts, though rarely threatened the Defense for just 199 Yards and a Touchdown, while Senior Tailback, Joshua Kelly (15 CAR, 53 YDS, 3.5 Y/C, 1 TD) made his debut after missing the matchup with the Bearcats, rushing for Fifty-Seven Yards on Fourteen Carries, and the opening Touchdown. However, San Diego State controlled Time of Possession (38:16), while also scoring Ten Points off a pair of UCLA Turnovers, with the disappointing performance only being underscored by the lack of interest from the fan base; there were only 36,951 on hand to witness the defeat, the school’s smallest crowd in twenty-two years. It’s already been a long road to redemption for Kelly, and by the look of things, there’s still quite a ways to go yet.