Can UCLA keep its viral season going? Four things to watch when Bruins face Utah

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson passes against Washington.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson passes against Washington on Sept. 30. The Bruins look to stay undefeated on the season Saturday against Utah at the Rose Bowl.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

They’re getting noticed.

The national rankings, the player-of-the-week awards, the sports-show hubbub was all a prelude to the joy that came the UCLA Bruins’ way on the eve of their latest showdown.

Brenden Clinton, creator of the college football skits that generate hundreds of thousands of views on Twitter, featured the Bruins in one of his fake film sessions. Most importantly, they weren’t the team that was the butt of every joke Clinton made while posing as a Washington coach berating his players.

The clip showed UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson sidestepping two Husky defenders who collide at the goal line, prompting Clinton to say, “Y’all run into each other like old friends. I mean, this is embarrassing, right? He made y’all cuddle! Look how long y’all stay in that position.”

Transfer wide receiver Jake Bobo might not descend from college football royalty, but he has played an integral role in helping UCLA start 5-0.

Oct. 6, 2022


What kind of fun might be next for UCLA? Depends on what happens against defending Pac-12 Conference champion Utah on Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl.

“The ranking’s good and I think it’s good for those guys and they should be proud of that,” Bruins coach Chip Kelly said, “but after you’re ranked, there’s really nothing else. You don’t get a trophy, you don’t get something handed to you, you gotta go back to work.

“We know we beat Washington last week because of our preparation during the week. We know if we’re going to beat Utah, it’s going to be because of our preparation during the week. Things don’t just happen to you, hope isn’t a strategy. You gotta put the work in.”

Here are four things to watch when the No. 18 Bruins (5-0 overall, 2-0 Pac-12) face No. 11 Utah (4-1, 2-0) at 12:30 p.m. (Ch. 11, Fox Sports app):


Going streaking

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham stands on the sideline during a game.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has had plenty of success against UCLA.
(Chase Stevens / Associated Press)


Nobody on UCLA’s roster was on the team the last time the Bruins beat Utah. Some were just starting middle school.

Long-ago UCLA linebacker Jayon Brown capped a sturdy defensive effort by recovering a fumble with a minute left to preserve the Bruins’ 17-9 victory over the Utes … on Nov. 21, 2015.

It’s been all Utah since then, the Utes winning the last five games in a series interrupted in 2020 when the teams did not play because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Utah faced a backup quarterback in three of those games because of injuries, UCLA trotting out reserve Mike Fafaul in 2016, Devon Modster in 2017 and Ethan Garbers in 2021.

Thompson-Robinson, who lost to Utah in 2019, is expected to start as usual Saturday.

Despite their win over Washington last week, UCLA enters their game against Utah as home underdogs. Here’s everything you need to know to make a smart bet.

Oct. 7, 2022


Similar successes

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet runs with the ball against Washington.
UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet could play a decisive role for the Bruins against Utah.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

These teams are a lot alike in how they’re winning games.

Utah ranks first in the Pac-12 in total defense, giving up 278.6 yards per game. The Bruins are second, giving up 318 yards. The teams also rank Nos. 1-2 in the conference in rushing attempts (Utah has 195 to UCLA’s 193), passing efficiency (Utah’s is 171.23 to UCLA’s 169.26) and completion percentage (Utah’s is 73.4% to UCLA’s 69.7%).

Thompson-Robinson and Utah counterpart Cam Rising could each make a claim to being the top Pac-12 quarterback this season, but UCLA might be able to one-up the Utes with its Z factor — Zach Charbonnet. The senior running back is averaging 104.2 yards rushing per game, trailing only California’s Jaydn Ott (106.4 yards) in the Pac-12. Utah’s top rusher is Tavion Thomas, who is averaging 59 yards.


The Calvert Bowl

UCLA linebacker Bo Calvert sacks Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener during a game in September 2021.
UCLA linebacker Bo Calvert sacks Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener in September 2021. Calvert’s younger brothers attend Utah.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

There will be some brotherly love, though it will likely have to wait until after the game.


UCLA senior linebacker Bo Calvert will face his two younger siblings in Utah sophomore linebacker Josh Calvert and redshirt freshman linebacker Ethan Calvert. Josh had started his college career at Washington before transferring.

While neither Josh nor Ethan is listed on Utah’s depth chart, Bo has been a steady contributor for the Bruins, forcing one fumble this season and recovering another.

The siblings played together at Oaks Christian High in Westlake Village and this will likely be the last time they all suit up in the same game. How will their parents handle their torn allegiances?

“They have little sweatshirts that they’ve made, stuff like that, with our faces on it,” Bo said, “and have half Utah, half UCLA sort of stuff, so it should be fun.”

Week 6 of the 2022 college football season features several high-profile matchups, including a battle of the Big 12 unbeatens in Kansas and TCU.

Oct. 6, 2022


Freebies galore

Will fans flock to the Rose Bowl to see Saturday's Pac-12 showdown between UCLA and Utah?
(Dylan Hernandez / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond announced earlier this week that all new Bruins students would get a free ticket to the game as part of the school’s efforts to boost attendance.

The Bruins are averaging 32,890 fans for home games this season, putting them on pace for a record low. UCLA’s attendance tops only Oregon State (27,240) and Washington State (26,231) in the Pac-12 at a time when the Beavers have a reduced capacity because of stadium renovations.

The good news for UCLA is that interest is on the upswing. A season-high crowd of 41,343 came for the Bruins’ 40-32 victory over Washington on Sept. 30, and an even larger crowd is expected Saturday.

The end zone tarps that have reduced capacity at the Rose Bowl to 53,390 are not expected to be removed for the game against the Utes.