UCLA (0-1) at No. 6 Oklahoma (1-0)
Saturday, 10 a.m. PDT, Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. TV: Fox. Radio: 570, 97.3.
Oklahoma tailbacks Rodney Anderson and Trey Sermon vs. the UCLA run defense. There’s just one question facing any offensive coordinator who doesn’t opt to run the ball directly into the guts of the Bruins’ defense on almost every play: Why? Despite some overall improvement on defense in the opener, the struggles of UCLA’s injury-depleted inside linebackers were reminiscent of 2017. They can expect plenty of face time with Anderson and Sermon, who combined for 169 yards and three touchdowns last week in only 14 carries.
UCLA (306 ypg/17 ppg): If quarterback Wilton Speight is unable to play because of a back injury suffered in the opener, his absence would likely lead to freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s first career start. Freshman tailback Kazmeir Allen figures to get more touches after rushing for 103 yards in only five carries in his college debut.
Oklahoma (650 ypg/ 63 ppg): The Sooners didn’t appear to miss departed Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield in their opener, averaging 10.5 yards per play against Florida Atlantic. Starting quarterback Kyler Murray didn’t have to play past halftime with his team holding a 42-0 lead in what became a 63-14 rout.
UCLA (304 ypg/26 ppg): It must have been nice for the Bruins not to read about ranking among the nation’s worst defenses for a week. They were still far below average against the run in their opener, giving up 194 yards, but yielded only 110 passing yards.
Oklahoma (324 ypg/14 ppg): The Sooners held Florida Atlantic to 324 yards, far below the 498.4 yards the Owls averaged per game in 2017 under coach Lane Kiffin.
UCLA’s renewed emphasis on special teams did not make an appreciable difference in the opener as the Bruins averaged only 4.5 yards on four punt returns and gained 21 yards on their one kickoff return. … Oklahoma notched its first blocked punt touchdown since 2002 last weekend when Curtis Bolden fell on the ball in the end zone.
UCLA is trying to avoid what would be only its second 0-2 start in the last 20 years. The Bruins lost their first two games in 2010. … Oklahoma has scored at least 30 points in 24 of its last 25 games and notched 29 points in the other game. The Sooners went 23-2 over that span.
Speight’s status isn’t the only uncertainty facing the Bruins. Linebackers Bo Calvert, Je’Vari Anderson, Leni Toailoa and Elijah Wade are also recovering from unspecified injuries, with their status unclear. … Oklahoma backup quarterback Austin Kendall is reportedly expected to sit out the game after suffering a leg injury when he ran into an equipment case last weekend. That would leave freshman Tanner Mordecai and walk-on Tanner Schafer as Murray’s backups against the Bruins.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch