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Oklahoma Sooners Football: Getting to know the UCLA Bruins

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Oklahoma faces UCLA for the first time since 2005.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma Sooners quickly dispatched Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic Owls in Saturday’s season opener, but will OU’s first matchup against a Power 5 opponent go as swimmingly? It’s not really reasonable to expect another 42-0 halftime advantage, but the UCLA Bruins didn’t exactly look like much of a threat in their 26-17 home loss to Cincinnati — particularly after losing starting QB Wilton Speight to a back injury.

The Sooners opened as a 29-point favorite in Vegas earlier today. However, this is a more physical team than the one Oklahoma saw in Norman this past weekend. I wouldn’t bet on a close outcome, but I’d expect a bit more resistance this time around. With all of that in mind, here’s a bit of background info on this week’s opponent:

About the University

  • The University of California, Los Angeles is located in the Westwood district of LA and is roughly 26 miles from the football team’s home stadium — the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
  • UCLA is tied for 21st (and tied for 1st among public universities) in US News and World Report’s National University Rankings and has an endowment of over $4 billion. The school also regularly leads our nation’s universities in number of applications per semester.
  • Notable alumni include Jackie Robinson, Francis Ford Coppola, James Dean, Jim Morrison, Carol Burnett, James Franco and seven Nobel laureates (including 1950 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Ralph Bunche). Also, some guy named Russell Westbrook was there for a few years. I’ve been told he lives in the area.

About the Program

  • UCLA lays claim to a 1954 national championship, which was awarded by the Coaches/UPI, FWAA and five other polls from the time period following a 9-0 season.
  • Gary Beban holds the distinction of being the program’s only Heisman winner, edging out O.J. Simpson in 1967.
  • Perhaps the best player in the history of the program, however, was Troy Aikman. After breaking his leg under the weight of Jerome Brown, Barry Switzer facilitated Aikman’s transfer to the program run by Terry Donahue. The Henryetta native went on to finish with a combined 20-4 record in 1987 and ‘88 and also claimed the Davey O’Brien Award as a senior.
  • The program ranks 12th all-time with 40 Consensus All-Americans. It also ranks 14th in first round picks (36), 15th in NFL Draft picks (321), 16th in weeks ranked in the AP Poll (533) and 23rd in bowl berths (36). The program has won 18 conference championships in its history.
  • After unsuccessful stops with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, Chip Kelly is back in the Pac-12 as UCLA’s head man. He’s inherited a less-than-ideal situation (primarily from an offensive perspective) left by Jim Mora Jr., but he’s at a place that enables his staff to recruit at a high level, and he could easily get the ball rolling within a few years. After Saturday’s loss, his collegiate head-coaching record sits at 46-8.
  • Mora, Kelly’s predecessor didn’t leave him with a bare cupboard (the defense has some talent), but Kelly did inherit a subpar along the offensive line. It showed against Cincinnati, who held the Bruins to 144 yards rushing despite allowing 74 of them on one play. There are plenty of former four-star recruits in the unit, including former Casady standout and one-time OU commit Josh Wariboko-Alali. However, most failed to truly pan out under the previous regime.

Names to Know

  • QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson - According to Chip Kelly, Speight’s status is still undetermined, but it might be wise to take that with a grain of salt considering the QB’s history with back issues. Having said that, I would expect to get acquainted with true freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who filled in for Speight with about five minutes to go in the second quarter. The former No. 36 overall prospect went 15-25 for 117 yards and took four sacks, and his fumble with nine minutes remaining resulted in a safety, which put Cincy ahead for good. While the moment may have been too big for Thompson-Robinson, he’s a great athlete with a live arm. He has a chance to make some plays against this defense. Will he do so consistently? I wouldn’t bet on it. Additionally, Devin Modster could theoretically get a shot behind center.
  • WR Theo Howard - As one of Josh Rosen’s favorite targets in 2017, Howard hauled in 56 receptions for 594 yards and four touchdowns. While he isn’t the most explosive playmaker (averaged just over 10 yards per reception last season), he proved yet again to be a fairly reliable target against Cincinnati, leading the team with five catches for 52 yards.
  • RB Kazmeir Allen - UCLA struggled mightily on the ground against Cincinnati. With primary back Soso Jamabo suspended for the first two games, the duo of Joshua Kelley and Bolu Olorunfunmi combining for 33 yards on 15 carries. However, freshman reserve and high school track standout Kazmeir Allen brought some excitement to the event with his 74-yard touchdown burst. He might not be the guy getting the bulk of the carries, but he could very well be the team’s biggest threat to deliver the impact play out of the backfield.
  • OLBs Keisean Lucier-South and Jaelan Phillips - The pair of former five-star recruits combined for 12.5 TFLs and 4.5 sacks (despite Phillips missing six games) in 2017 and could thrive as edge rushers in Jerry Azzinaro’s 3-4. Each recorded a sack against the Bearcats.
  • S Adarius Pickett - The senior safety had 15 tackles (9 solo) against Cincinnati and did big things in 2017. The former four-star recruit out of Richmond, Calif. is one of many former blue-chippers left on this defense from the previous regime.
  • Players returning from suspension - Soso Jamabo and Devin Asiasi will still be suspended, but DT Osa Odighizuwa, DB Mo Osling, DE (former TE) Moses Robinson-Carr and C (former DL) Boss Tagaloa should be back for this one.

Series History

Oklahoma and UCLA have met on four occasions, with OU holding a 3-1 advantage in the series.

1986 - After transferring from Oklahoma, quarterback Troy Aikman sat out the 1986 season as his new program faced his old one at Owen Field. The No. 1 and defending national champion Sooners dominated the No. 4 Bruins en route to a 38-3 whoopin’.

1990 - Four years later, Oklahoma made a return trip to the Rose Bowl, where Gary Gibbs’ team handled No. 19 UCLA by a score of 34-14. In the second and final season of OU’s postseason ban, OU would go on to finish 17th in the AP Poll with an 8-3 record.

2003 - Oklahoma’s 2003 team, led by eventual Heisman winner Jason White, took a 14-10 lead on a 12-yard TD pass to Travis Wilson early in the second quarter. Antonio Perkins then returned a pair of punts for TDs to put things out of reach by halftime, and he added one more in the fourth quarter to set a new NCAA record.

2005 - Coming off of back-to-back BCS Championship Game appearances, 2005 was a rebuilding year for the Sooners, and it showed in a 41-24 loss in Pasadena. OU trailed by only a field goal entering the fourth quarter, but Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis made the late plays and sealed OU’s fate.

The UCLA Perspective

UCLA Fans

To get a feel for the opposing fan base, head on over to Bruins Nation, SB Nation’s UCLA site. We’ll definitely be doing a Q&A with them in the near future. You can also follow them on Twitter at @BruinNation.