September 07, 2007
BYU v. UCLA: Smack Talk
Posted by Gordon Smith

I have been debating whether to blog about tomorrow's football match between BYU and UCLA, but Steve Bainbridge leaves me no choice. Steve has taken the audacious position that #13 ranked UCLA -- a one touchdown favorite in Vegas -- will prevail on its home field against its unranked non-BCS opponent, BYU. Steve is so confident in his team that he is willing to wager some "fine California cheese" (admittedly the second best source of cheese in the U.S.) against Utah's official snack food -- Jello. This seems roughly the equivalent of the old "dollars to doughnuts" bet.

In addition to playing on its home field, UCLA has the advantage of starting a quarterback who is a former Mormon missionary. Ben Olson has immense potential -- and I hope he realizes that potential someday -- but he has yet to prove himself against a top defense. BYU's front seven are fast, and based on what I have seen, Ben Olson will not handle the pressure he is going to feel tomorrow.

The issue with Ben Olson is generalizable to the entire UCLA football team: the hype is mostly about potential. This is a team returning many of its starters from last year, but last year these players finished with a 7-6 record, including a lopsided loss to a mediocre Florida State team in the Emerald Bowl. UCLA's marquee win was in its rivalry game against USC. Beating USC anytime is impressive, but rivalry games always have a different dynamic.

Last week, the lowly Stanford Cardinal gained 331 yards passing and, if you exclude QB sacks, almost 100 yards rushing against UCLA's vaunted defense. BYU has one of the best offensive lines in the country and more than a handful of offensive weapons, including a trio of punishing Tongan running backs. I foresee a long and tiring day for UCLA's defense.

This game will be close ... for the first half. BYU will pull away in the second half when UCLA's defense wears down. My prediction: BYU 28 UCLA 14.

Steve, anything from the Marin French Cheese Company would be fine with me.

UPDATE: Congrats to UCLA and to Steve. BYU had me believing in my own hype at the beginning of the fourth quarter -- Ben Olson looked rattled and BYU was dominating the time of possession -- but an untimely turnover sealed BYU's fate. It was a fun game to watch, even though I didn't like the result.

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