UCLA vs. Utah: How the teams match up for Saturday’s game

Utah running back Zack Moss (2) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Washington on Nov. 2 in Seattle.
Utah running back Zack Moss (2) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Washington on Nov. 2 in Seattle. Utah won 33-28.
(Stephen Brashear / Associated Press)

Breaking down the on-field matchups for UCLA (4-5, 4-2) at No. 7 Utah (8-1, 5-1) on Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City at 5 p.m. PST. (TV: Fox, Radio: 570, 1110).

Marquee matchup

UCLA running back Joshua Kelley vs. the Utah defense. Simply put, this is best versus best. Kelley leads the Pac-12 Conference in rushing with 107.6 yards per game, helping the Bruins surpass 200 yards on the ground in five consecutive games for the first time since 1978. He’s topped 100 yards in three consecutive games and has moved into 15th place on UCLA’s career rushing list with 2,104 yards in less than two full seasons. Standing in his way of another big game will be Utah’s best-in-the-nation run defense that is giving up only 56 yards per game and 2.45 yards per carry while holding eight of its last nine opponents under 100 yards rushing.

Getting offensive

UCLA (406.4 ypg/29.3 ppg): As absurd as it may sound after the Bruins scored 14 points in each of their first three games, it could be time to start debating whether Chip Kelly’s UCLA offense is becoming as prolific as his Oregon blur. The Bruins have scored more than 30 points in four straight games and have amassed an average of 478 yards of offense in their last six games after producing 263.3 yards on average over their first three games.

UCLA’s J.J. Molson and Utah’s Andrew Strauch are both kickers who have an ancestral connection to the Titanic disaster. They will reunite Saturday.


Utah (446.4 ypg/33.1 ppg): Running back Zack Moss ran for a career-high 211 yards against UCLA last season and has given the Utes the best rushing offense among Pac-12 teams in all games this season (207.8 yards per game). Quarterback Tyler Huntley rarely makes a mistake, having only one pass intercepted this season.

Getting defensive

UCLA (431.6 ypg/32.0 ppg): A newfound aggression has been reflected in the Bruins’ 17 sacks over their last six games, with linebacker Josh Woods logging 3½ and linebacker Keisean Lucier-South and defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa 2½ each over that span. Linebacker Krys Barnes is averaging one tackle for loss per game, tying him for fourth in the Pac-12.

Utah (246.3 ypg/12.2 ppg): The Utes don’t just stop teams, they often generate points with their defense. Utah’s four interception returns for touchdowns are tied for the lead among major college teams. Utah has shut out its opponents in eight halves this season and its shutout against California last month was its first against a Pac-12 school since joining the conference.

College football Week 12 picks: Take Auburn to defeat visiting Georgia and Minnesota to win at Iowa.


Something special

Utah graduate transfer kicker Andrew Strauch, who spent his first four collegiate seasons at UCLA, has sent 29 of his 57 kickoffs for touchbacks. He has also made a 41-yard field goal while missing his only other attempt, from 25 yards.

Of note

UCLA’s early-game offense has improved significantly from the one that totaled just seven points combined in the first quarter of its first three games. The Bruins have scored 100 points in the first quarters of their last six games, averaging 17 points in those first quarters. UCLA has scored a touchdown on all four opening drives during its four victories.

Injury report

UCLA safety Quentin Lake is unlikely to play because of his lengthy recovery from a wrist injury.