CU Buffs vs. UCLA football: 4 things to know, key matchups and predictions – The Denver Post

Colorado (3-6, 2-4 Pac-12) at UCLA (5-4, 3-3)

7 p.m. Saturday, Rose Bowl

TV/Radio: Pac-12/850 AM, 94.1 FM

Line: Colorado +17.5, 57.5 over/under

Weather: 73 degrees, clear

What to know

Bombs away. Quarterback Brendon Lewis has thrown three touchdowns apiece in the Buffs’ last two games… after throwing four TDs total in CU’s first seven games. Can the freshman signal caller, who completed passes to nine receivers last week vs. Oregon State, carry that momentum into Pasadena and produce yet another big game? A leaky UCLA secondary (278.4 pass yards/game, 119th in FBS) should afford Lewis opportunities. The biggest challenge falls to the offensive line, which must decipher the Bruins’ exotic blitz packages.

Nate or No Nate? The biggest question for CU heading into Saturday night: Will Buffs LB Nate Landman be available or not? Bruins coach Chip Kelly is preparing like the all-conference talent will suit up, even though CU coach Karl Dorrell declared him “very doubtful” to play. If Landman is unable to go, his presence will be sorely missed for a defense that’s struggled to stop the run (177.3 yards/game, 99th in FBS) and is facing a two-headed UCLA rushing attack of Zach Charbonnet (5.9 yards/carry) and Brittain Brown (5.8) that is among the nation’s best.

Dorrell’s return. It’s been 14 years since CU coach Karl Dorrell’s tenure came to an end in Westwood, with Saturday marking the UCLA alum’s first game in the Rose Bowl as head coach for another team. The now 57-year-old Dorrell went 35-27 over five seasons with the Bruins, getting dismissed after a 6-6 campaign in 2007 (his third season with a .500 or worse record). Now the Bruins are inching closer to firing their third head coach since Dorrell left, with Chip Kelly on the hot seat at 15-25 in three-plus seasons. Can Dorrell put the final nail in Kelly’s velvet coffin?

Dogged and doubted. Despite showing some life the past two games, CU is a double-digit underdog for a third straight week. The Buffs covered the previous two weeks, including last Saturday’s double-OT upset of Oregon State at Folsom Field. It might be difficult for them to keep the streak going against a UCLA team coming off a bye. Then again, Kelly is 1-3 straight-up with an extra week to prepare at UCLA.

Key matchups

RB Jarek Broussard vs. UCLA front seven. After a long wait, the Broussard of 2020 finally showed up against OSU, exploding for 151 yards on 24 carries in his first 100-yard game of the season. The degree of difficulty goes up a notch, however, against the Bruins’ 19th-ranked rush defense (116.4 yards allowed/game). Top 100 yards again, and it’s safe to say Broussard is back for good.

UCLA pass game vs. CU secondary. All indications are UCLA will have starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson back after the senior missed the Bruins’ loss at Utah with an injured right thumb. If that’s the case, the Buffs secondary can expect a more explosive UCLA attack with the nation’s 51st-rated passer taking snaps. While receiver Kyle Phillips leads the team in catches (39) and yards (528), tight end Greg Dulcich (31-477) may be the biggest matchup nightmare for CU.

Predictions

Kyle Fredrickson, sports reporter: UCLA 34, CU 21

The Buffs have shown significant improvement over the past two weeks, suggesting Karl Dorrell still has the trust of players. But that won’t be enough for an upset road victory on Saturday.

Sean Keeler, sports columnist: UCLA 36, CU 24

The Bruins are winless in their last three at home, giving up a Chip Kelly-esque 38.7 points per game in the process. The Buffs have come a long way in three weeks. Just not sure they’re far enough along for the upset. Not yet.

Matt Schubert, deputy sports editor: UCLA 38, CU 28

Two programs trending in opposite directions, with the end of the Chip Kelly era potentially imminent. That said, it’s hard to envision the Buffs shutting down the Bruins’ run game. That lone fact should be enough to carry UCLA to a win.

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