UCLA

UCLA vs. South Alabama College Football Predictions: Week 3

The All Bruins staff made their picks for how Saturday’s game against the Jaguars is going to go down.

The third and final week of nonconference play is coming up, and the Bruins could be facing their toughest challenge yet.

UCLA football (2-0) will play South Alabama (2-0) at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. The Bruins, who have never played the Jaguars, enter the game as 16-point favorites over their Sun Belt counterparts.

All Bruins is making its picks for who will win, what the score will be and how the game will play out, courtesy of Managing Editor Sam Connon and contributing writer Benjamin Royer.

Sam Connon, Managing Editor

Prediction: UCLA 38, South Alabama 31

The Sun Belt is riding high after wins over Notre Dame, Texas A&M and Nebraska, and UCLA is a prime candidate to join that list next.

After all, the Jaguars are averaging over 500 yards of offense per game, and some projections have them in line for an eight-win season. The Bruins have had a porous defense ever since Chip Kelly arrived in 2018, and that could be exposed once again now that the level of competition has increased.

UCLA does still have a better defense than Nicholls State and Central Michigan, though, so don’t expect South Alabama to rack up 500 yards again Saturday. And while the Bruins’ offense likely won’t crack that mark either, they do have the playmakers and experience to win in a shootout if it comes to that.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson has looked great so far this year, even if some communication issues and an adjusting offensive line have left him on the ground more often than he was in 2021. Heading into their third game together, however, there is reason to expect that the offensive line has already taken a few steps forward since the opener.

South Alabama’s pass rush does not have the production and talent to disrupt UCLA’s size up front, given that they only have 3.0 sacks through two games this fall. Even though they have been slightly more successful at bringing down ball-carriers behind the line, Zach Charbonnet has made a career out of avoiding negative plays against far more imposing defenses.

It won’t be easy, but the Bruins should be able to pull this one out.

But just remember – it wasn’t all too long ago that UCLA was a disaster in nonconference play. Kelly went 0-6 in his first six nonconference games with the Bruins. If he nabs the win Saturday, he would improve to 5-1 in his last six nonconference games. That would be quite the turnaround over the past two years, and a welcome one for UCLA heading into an interesting Pac-12 slate.

Benjamin Royer, contributing writer

Prediction: UCLA 31, South Alabama 17

South Alabama is a step up from UCLA’s first two opponents – Bowling Green and Alabama State – but even the Bruins’ Week 4 foes, Colorado, would likely have trouble catching up to the Jaguars.

However, the veteran offensive core of UCLA should keep the game in a comfortable, two-possession distance from South Alabama, no matter how much trouble the defense may or may not have adjusting to a new offense at the Rose Bowl.

The Jaguars have entered the Week 3 battle against the Bruins with arguably two better or similar victories over Nicholls State and Central Michigan. The latter of the wins proves the strength of South Alabama, as the Chippewas – who almost defeated Oklahoma State in week 1 – should be competing for a MAC title in 2022.

Quarterback Connor Bradley has had a strong start, throwing six touchdowns compared to just one interception. If UCLA’s secondary allows easy yardage – as they did in Week 2 – the blue and gold could be playing from behind in the first half.

And the Bruins will have no issue battling back.

UCLA’s offensive duo of Dorian Thompson Robinson and Zach Charbonnet should be all clear to go for Saturday, and even if Keegan Jones and TJ Harden have to step in for the latter again, the Bruins are primed to be well prepared to take their third victory in a row.

The real tests begin in Week 5, and for now, UCLA needs to cruise through the next two matchups, or else serious questions will need to be asked about the direction of the program once again.

Follow Connon on Twitter at @SamConnon
Follow Royer on Twitter at @thebenroyer
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