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UCLA Sports

UCLA-Colorado: A look at how the teams match up

UCLA (0-3, 0-0) at Colorado (3-0, 0-0)

Friday, 6 p.m. PDT, Folsom Field. TV: FS1. Radio: 1150, 97.3.

Marquee matchup

UCLA’s secondary versus Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault. The Bruins made the Buffaloes’ top receiving target such a priority in practice this week that they designated two members of their scout team to wear his No. 2. He’s worth the attention after a start in which he’s caught 26 passes for 455 yards and three touchdowns, landing him on the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award that goes to the nation’s top receiver. UCLA’s defensive backs were supposed to be a strength, but the Bruins are allowing 228.7 passing yards per game, ninth in the Pac-12 Conference.

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Laviska Shenault Jr.
Colorado’s Laviska Shenault makes a touchdown catch in front of Nebraska’s Dicaprio Bootle on Sept. 8.
(Nati Harnik / Associated Press)

Getting offensive

UCLA (319.7 ypg/17.3 ppg): The Bruins hope the return of offensive lineman Boss Tagaloa and tight end Devin Asiasi from suspensions can spark an underperforming unit that ranks among the worst in the nation in every major category. Having a week off also led to what the team dubbed Improvement Week in which it tried to address its many deficiencies.

Colorado (494 ypg/41 ppg): Colorado has scored on every game-opening drive and every drive to start the second half in each of its games this season. A big reason has been the dual effectiveness of quarterback Steven Montez, a master at running zone-read plays.

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Getting defensive

UCLA (403 ypg/37.7 ppg): The Bruins are not getting enough big stops, allowing their first three opponents to convert 50% of their third downs. The run defense is no longer on pace to set school records for futility like last season but remains fairly pliable, allowing 174.3 yards per game.

Colorado (373 ypg/18.3 ppg): The Buffaloes have been fairly middling on this side of the ball with one notable exception — their stinginess at surrendering points. Linebackers Nate Landman and Rick Gamboa have combined to make all three of the team’s interceptions.

Something special

The Bruins have started only nine of their 42 possessions beyond their own 25-yard line, partly because of a lagging return game. … Colorado has averaged 27.3 yards on its kickoff returns, ranking 15th nationally.

Of note

UCLA has lost its last 11 road games since beating Brigham Young early in the 2016 season. Only 14 current Bruins were on the roster when the team notched its last Pac-12 Conference road victory, a 17-9 triumph over Utah in November 2015. … Colorado is coming off a 45-14 victory over New Hampshire, UCLA coach Chip Kelly’s alma mater and the school where he established a reputation as an innovative offensive coaching mind.

Injury report

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UCLA quarterback Wilton Speight did not appear limited during the portion of practice open to the media this week, meaning he could be available to return from the back injury that has sidelined him since the season opener. Less certain is the status of receiver Christian Pabico and linebacker Je’Vari Anderson, who were slowed by injuries in practice. … Colorado receiver Jaylon Jackson could make his season debut after a lengthy rehabilitation from a foot injury suffered in training camp.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch


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