2014 UCLA Bruins Odds to Win the Pac-12 with Picks & Predictions
by Aaron Smith - 8/4/2014
The UCLA Bruins made a terrific hire when they picked up Jim Mora Jr. in late 2011. UCLA had losing seasons in four of their five seasons before Mora arrived, but things have changed for the positive in a big way since he took over. UCLA won nine games in 2012 and 10 games in 2013. The Bruins finished last season with huge wins over both USC and Virginia Tech. They enter the 2014 season with plenty of momentum.
This UCLA team returns nine starters on offense and eight starters on defense. Any team that returns 17 starters has to be happy with where they are going to go, but it is especially exciting considering some of the stars that UCLA has returning to the roster. Expectations are shooting higher, and the Bruins are now not only in the Pac-12 title talk, but also the national title conversation.
UCLA has taken the leap from mediocre to good and then good to very good. Can the Bruins take that last step and become an excellent team that has a chance at the first four-team playoff? Let's take a look at their roster.
2014 UCLA Offense
It all starts with quarterback Brett Hundley for the Bruins. Hundley is a tremendous quarterback who probably doesn't get as much credit as he deserves. I expect Hundley to be mentioned in the Heisman Trophy race late in the season in 2014 . Hundley completed nearly 67 percent of his passes and threw for over 3,000 yards last year. He also led the team in rushing with 748 yards on 4.7 yards per carry. He is the definition of a dual-threat quarterback who can do it all. The Bruins are in great shape at the quarterback spot.
The spot where UCLA should be most improved from a year ago is on the offensive front. The Bruins offensive line was a bit of a weakness last year, primarily because this group was destroyed by injury problems. The depth chart looks much better as UCLA got much deeper here, and four of their five starters from last year return. UCLA has a second unit that is stocked full of guys who can step right in, and this team won't miss a beat.
ccc is the featured running back for UCLA. He was dinged up the majority of last season as well. James is a good runner and a terrific receiver out of the backfield. The Bruins offense will be much better if he stays healthy. Paul Perkins is a solid backup who can also catch it out of the backfield. UCLA is loaded with quality pass catchers who have sure hands and can move the sticks. The only thing this group is missing is a deep threat with top-end speed.
Last year, UCLA finished No. 38 in the nation in total offense. This UCLA offense should be much improved this year. I expect them to finish in the Top 15 in the nation in total offense in 2014.
2014 UCLA Defense
Jeff Ulbrich replaces the departed Jeff Spanos as the new defensive coordinator at UCLA. Ulbrich has been a linebackers coach the last few seasons, so he has a close relationship with some of the key players on this defense. UCLA did lose a real star in Anthony Barr, but because of their terrific recruiting over the past couple seasons, this Bruins defense appears to be in great shape.
The Bruins secondary is among the best in the country, and they will lead this defense. Ishmael Adams and Fabian Moreau are tremendous cover corners. Randall Goforth and Anthony Jefferson are one of the top safety combinations in college football. This is an athletic group that also tackles well.
Eric Kendricks is the defensive leader at the inside linebacker spot. Kendricks led the team with 106 tackles last year. Myles Jack is a star sophomore at the outside linebacker spot, and I expect big things out of him this season. The other two linebacker spots are up for grabs, so the linebacker unit overall is a minor question mark. Still, because of their depth this unit should be fine.
The Bruins defensive front lost some key players, but they have some great guys to plug in to those openings. Sophomore nose tackle Kenny Clark played very well in his freshmen season, and he should be very good at plugging the running lanes. Owa Odighizuwa is back from an injury, and he'll be a solid performer at the end spot. Eddie Vanderdoes is a guy the coaches are high on also.
2014 UCLA Bruins Odds to Win Pac-12
Bovada lists the UCLA Bruins as the second favorite to win the Pac-12 at 11/4. The Bruins are a 5/4 favorite to win the Pac-12 South Division. UCLA is also getting respect in the race for the FBS Championship, where they are listed at 14/1. The season win total for UCLA in 2014 is posted at 9.5 games.
2014 UCLA Bruins Picks & Predictions
I'm extremely high on this UCLA team. The offense should be much better than a year ago, and the defense will likely improve a bit as well. The UCLA schedule sets up favorably. They host Oregon, USC, and Stanford. Mora is still underrated as a coach, and this team is capable of doing something special. I love the season win total "over" 9.5 games. I think 11/4 is a great value for this team to win the Pac-12 also.
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Read more articles by Aaron Smith
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