In his press conference on Tuesday, Nevada head coach Brian Polian made it clear what week one is about and said, "this week is more about us, and finding out what we're all about."
And the Wolf Pack and its fan should know by late Saturday night exactly what this team is made of. A top 25 team on the road to open the season in one of the most historic stadiums in college football. That's no easy task for a Nevada team coming off a disappointing finish to the 2012 season, losing five out of their last six games, losing numerous key contributors, and changing from a legendary head coach to a first timer.
Nevertheless, Nevada must go to the Rose Bowl and play an extremely talented UCLA team that includes one of the nations best pass rushers in Anthony Barr and a young but dynamic quarterback Brett Hundley.
Nevada's right side of the line figures to be an area that Barr and the UCLA pass rush could take advantage. Quarterback Cody Fajardo needs time to survey the field against a Bruins secondary that has four new starters this year. If Fajardo doesn't get the necessary time in the pocket, he could be forced to tuck the ball and run which may be difficult against the athletic and speedy linebackers.
Hundley, a sophomore at UCLA, is a quarterback with a similar skill set to Fajardo. He has both a strong and accurate arm and has the ability to scramble on any play. His rushing numbers last year, 160 carries for 355 yards, is skewed due to the fact that he was sacked 52 times. That was both a reflection on Hundley's youth and holding the ball too long as well as the weak UCLA offensive line which figures to be extremely young again this year.
If Nevada can contain both Hundley and Barr, they have to ability to pull off a major upset. Additionally for Nevada to win the game, it would likely have to be an offensive shootout. Nevada's defense is both young and inexperienced especially after having just installed the Tampa 2 defense this year under new coordinator Scottie Hazelton so mistakes are expected. If there is one area where the defense could step up, it would be in the front four with defensive ends Brock Hekking and Lenny Jones leading the way. Those two need to create pressure and make Hundley uncomfortable. If they can do that, then the offense well need to put up somewhere between 28 and 40 points just to have a shot, which is not out of the question.
For UCLA to win they need to squash any chance of Nevada gaining momentum early. An early touchdown or forcing a quick turnover would do just the trick for the Bruins. Additionally senior UCLA receiver Shaq Evans needs to have a big game against a weak Wolf Pack secondary. On the defensive side of the ball for the Bruins, getting to Fajardo early and often is the key. If you can get both him and running back Don Jackson out of their groove, it could become a long night for Wolf Pack fans.
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