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UCLA Sports

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

South Dakota v Oklahoma
Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts slips past South Dakota safety Mike Johnson during a 70-14 win Sept. 7 in Norman, Okla.
(Brett Deering / Getty Images)

A look at the key matchups as UCLA (0-2) takes on No. 5 Oklahoma (2-0) at the Rose Bowl on Saturday (5 p.m., TV: Fox, Radio: 1150):

Marquee matchup

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts vs. the UCLA defense. It seems like a classic mismatch, a Heisman Trophy contender against a secondary that has yielded 267.5 yards per game to rank No. 104 nationally. Hurts is the only player in the nation with more than 500 passing yards (591) and more than 200 rushing yards (223) through the season’s first two games. The Bruins could be on more equal footing in this matchup if star cornerback Darnay Holmes can make his season debut after being sidelined by an ankle injury, but UCLA’s defensive backs must make some plays to avoid further embarrassment after repeatedly getting burned by far lesser quarterbacks.

Getting offensive

UCLA (239.5 ypg/14 ppg): The Bruins need to get their run game going to ease the pressure on quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Tailback Joshua Kelley ran for 53 yards last week while easing his way back into the rotation in his season debut, part of a ground attack that has generated just 62 yards per game to rank No. 126 nationally. UCLA has been held under 100 yards rushing in three consecutive games.

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Oklahoma (709.5 ypg/59.5 ppg): The nation’s most prolific offense continues to hum even without running back T.J. Pledger, who has not played this season because of a hand injury. Oklahoma is averaging a nation-leading 10.9 yards per play and a school-record 10 players scored touchdowns last week during the Sooners’ 70-14 thrashing of South Dakota.

Getting defensive

UCLA (395.5 ypg/23.5 ppg): The run defense has been a rare highlight for the Bruins in the season’s early going. UCLA is giving up just 127.5 yards per game on the ground, a vast improvement over 2018 (199.4 rushing yards allowed per game) and 2017 (287.4). But the Bruins are allowing opponents to convert 45.2% of their third downs, ranking No. 105 nationally.

In two seasons as Oklahoma’s coach, Lincoln Riley has had two quarterbacks win the Heisman Trophy. Jalen Hurts could be next for the Sooners.

Oklahoma (378 ypg/22.5 ppg): The Sooners’ defense appears reborn under first-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, forcing three turnovers and two turnovers on downs while registering 16 tackles for loss and five sacks. Oklahoma has allowed opponents to convert only 25% of their third downs, ranking No. 15 nationally.

Something special

UCLA bungled another special teams play last week when it was called for an illegal formation on a punt, wiping out a spectacular tackle by Mo Osling that had pinned San Diego State at its 10-yard line. After the Bruins had to redo the punt, the Aztecs got the ball at their 28.

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Of note

UCLA has given up 24 points off the six turnovers it has committed this season while scoring no points off the two turnovers it has forced.

Injury report

The Bruins hope that Holmes and receiver Theo Howard (wrist) can make their season debuts. Coach Chip Kelly has ruled out offensive lineman Michael Alves because of the back injury that sidelined him for the first two games. … Oklahoma defensive lineman Kenneth Mann and left guard Marquis Hayes are both questionable with undisclosed injuries. Defensive back Tre Norwood is out for the season and linebacker Caleb Kelly is out indefinitely with lower-body injuries.


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