After countless months of waiting football season has finally come upon us. The NCAA has prepared an arsenal set of games to launch the 20162017 campaign on labor day weekend. With big games like LSU and Wisconsin, USC vs Alabama, and Clemson vs Auburn; the UCLA matchup vs the Aggies being very undersold.
Playing in front of 100,000 strong at Kyle Field makes the Aggies a slight favorite to win this game A&M started out as 4 point favorites, but they have dwindled down to measly 1 point as the week has gone on. The UCLA Bruins will take their star QB and Espn cover boy Josh Rosen to the unfriendly rowdy atmosphere of the 12th man at Kyle Fields. However, Rosen doesn’t seem to be phased by the rowdy atmosphere saying; “ After like 50,000 people, it sounds the same, or doesn’t sound the same.” This type of talk should rally the 12th man should be rallied up screaming to make Rosen eat his words. With star power on both sides combined with an interesting storyline, this game as a chance to be the best college football this labor weekend.
Texas A&M is once again considered one of the top talented teams in the country, but the program has spiraled downward since the loss of Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Last year, Kevin Sumlin suffered from a bizarre losing season where Texas A&M lost both star QBs Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray transferring out back in December. Kevin Sumlin is hoping that Oklahoma grad transfer Trevor Knight can revive the program. The former Oklahoma QB lost the starting QB job to sunsational transfer Baker Makerfield, but Knight had a strong freshman campaign where he passed for 3,424 yards in 2014, and lead the Sooners to a Sugar Bowl win against Alabama. After losing lead running back Tra Carson, the Aggies will look for the experienced QB to lead the offense to prominence once again. In addition to a new face of quarterback, the Aggies have a change in offensive coordinator bringing in former UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. Mazzone spent the last four years with the Bruins, adding a another sub plot to this national televised game as Mazzone will make his Aggie debut against his former team. Sumlin responded how he felt having UCLA’s offensive coordinator would affect the game “If anything, Jim Mora has familiarity with Noel,” Sumlin said. “If there’s any advantage, I would give it to UCLA. There’s a new coordinator (at UCLA, Kennedy Polamalu) and we don’t have anything on him.”
This can turn out to have a small effect in the game. Mazzone he is notorious for being a very predictable play caller; bubble screen on first down, zone on second, 5 step drop on third, and repeat. For the Aggies to be successful against the Bruins Mazzone is going to have to come with a few tricks up his sleeves. Mazzone is coordinator who loves to utilize the short passing game, and he gets to game plan with one of the most talented receiving corps in the nation lead by Christian Kirk. Kirk is one of the most explosive players in the country, the freshmen All American caught 80 passes for 1,008 yards in his first season. Krik is complemented by player makers on the outside in Josh Reynolds and Ricky Seals Jones. However, Jones maybe used in the Y role similar to how Mazzone utilized Durante at UCLA. Mazzone offense stretches on short and efficient passes, but he has a quarterback that has a career completion percentage of 55%. The revamped Texas A&M passing offense will have to match up against UCLA’s experienced, deep, and talented secondary. The UCLA secondary is lead by talented seniors Fabian Moreau, Randall Goforth, and Marcus Rios complemented by talented junior Jaleel Wadood; together the defensive back core has combined for over 100 career starts. In addition to a strong defensive back core the Bruins return 9 of 11 starters from their defensive last year. However, those two players were the heart and soul of their defense in Myles Jack and Kenny Clark. The Bruins will need player makers to step in the front 7; the return of Eddie Vanderdoes and Jayon Brown in the middle should help that cause. The UCLA defensive front will have to expose a very weak Aggies offensive line that has only one player with starting experience. If the Bruins can stop the run and get to Knight, the Aggies are in for a very long night. With A&M losing their leading rushers from last year, the Aggies we look to air the ball out. The A&M receiving core vs the UCLA defensive backs will be one of the most entertaining matchups all week.
The Aggies have a top 20 defensive lead by their defensive end Myles Garrett who had 12.5 sacks last season and is a potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Texas A&M defense will look to stop Sports Illustrated star Josh Rosen, and Garrett will have a lot to do with that. The big man protecting Rosen from Garrett is redshirt Senior and preseason all american Connor McDermott. McDermott is an experienced and talented tackle who possesses a late secondthird round draft grade, but the task of taking Garrett one on one every down may be too much to ask for in the senior. When limiting Garrett Mora said, We’ll put a tight end on that side at times, and we’ll use our backs to chip him (Garrett) at times,” UCLA coach Jim Mora told the L.A. Daily News. “And there will also be times when Conor just has to take him on and get the job done. That’s what football’s all about.” With Garrett getting all of the attention, Aggies defensive end opposite of Garrett, Dashon Hall could prove to the ex factor in this game. The Aggies have talent to complement their dominant ends in Daylon Mack, Josh Walker, and Henderson Zaycoven. UCLA will have three new starters on their offensive line, and they are gonna need to have their hands full with these Aggies front.
The UCLA front will have to hold their own if the Bruins are going to be able to move the ball.
The UCLA receivers will send out a very inexperienced receiving corps against strong safety that was the fourth best defense against the pass. A&M returns both of their star safeties in Armani Watt, and Justin Evans; both Aggies have the talent to picked up by the second day of the draft. Rosen will have to attack this secondary after losing his top 3 receivers from last year. Rosen throws to a receiving core that has a combined 92 career catches. If Rosen has a terrific game against an elite pass rush and solid secondary with an inexperienced receiving corps, Rosen can get an early start on the Heisman race. However, the ex factor player for the UCLA is Texas native Soso Jamabo. UCLA faces a team that allowed over 213 yards per game on the ground last year, and the Aggies are even thinner at linebacker than they were last year. With a new pro style philosophy, the Bruins are going to try to pound the ball against the Aggies vulnerable rush defense. The UCLA offense should be able to move the ball consistently if the offensive line can create running lanes for Jamabo, and protect Rosen in the passing game The UCLA run game can put up the offense in favorable spots, and can allow Josh Rosen to make big plays in the play action pass game.
After accounting for all of these factors, this game proves to be the most even matchup of all the super Saturday games. This game should be a defensive slugfest on both sides. Although offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone would like to get a W one year removed from his former team; his offense has too many deficiencies to move the ball constantly on this defense. Although everyone is going to key their eyes on Garrett getting to Rosen, the ex factor in this game will be UCLA defensive front taking advantage of A&M’s weak offensive line. UCLA will expose A&M’s new mediocre quarterback who has a career 57% completion percentage, 2519 touchdown to interception ratio, and a career QBR under 50. I expect UCLA talented defensive front to pressure Knight, and the UCLA defense will have opportunity to force a lot of turnovers. UCLA and Texas A&M are pretty even across the board, but comparing the assets they have at most important position is not even close. UCLA is going to stake their new identity in college station, as a physical, smart, and efficient team. Going into college station will be the toughest task of Josh Rosen’s young career. This will be a tight game throughout, but Rosen will be able to make the big plays when they matter. I see UCLA coming out with a victory by a score of 21-17.