The UCLA Bruins ranked number eight in both the Associated Press and Coaches' Poll. That is a nine spot jump from their number 16 ranking at the end of last season. The Bruins have not been ranked in the Pre-Season Top 10 since 1998. Head Coach Jim Mora is 19-8 in the last two years. The battle tested Bruins have to tune out the hype and as stated by Coach Mora focus on their team and that weekend's opponent.
College football fans have seen several teams ranked in the Top-10 of Pre-Season polls fall flat on their faces during the season. Arizona ranked number 4 in 1999, but finished the year 6-6. In 2001 Sports Illustrated ranked Oregon State as their Pre-Season number one team, but the Beavers finished the year 5-6. USC ranked number one in 2012, but finished with a 7-6 record. Florida ranked 10th in 2013, but the Gators finished 4-8.
The Bruins return 18 starters (eight on offense, eight on defense, kicker and punter); most in ESPN's Top-25, from a 10-3 team (6-3 in the Pac 12 South). UCLA will get back their top four rushers, five of their top six receivers and 10 of their top 14 tacklers, including the entire secondary. Quarterback Brett Hundley is a true Heisman candidate that anchors the UCLA offense his arms and legs have accounted for 73 touchdowns in the last two years.
The offensive line returns five juniors or sophomores who saw a lot playing time. The Bruins boost a defense that is deep and talented at all levels. The Bruins are stout up front in their hybrid 3-4/ 4-2-5 defense with defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes, Ellis McCarthy, Owamagbe Odighizuma and sophomore Kenny Clark.
At Linebacker the Bruins will start Eric Kendricks, Myles Jack (sensational in 2013 winning both the Pac-12 Offensive and Defensive freshmen of the year honors) and Zach Whitley rated the number 6 middle linebacker recruit in the country. UCLA's talented Secondary led by Ishmael Adams and Fabian Moreau at cornerback, Anthony Jefferson, Randall Goforth and Tahaan Goodman at Safey.
The Bruins defense is more talented from top to bottom then their offense. Benefiting from the return of QB Brett Hundley and a top defense the Bruins have Pac-12 Title, Rose Bowl, and College Football Playoff and National Championship aspirations.
The issues that could derail UCLA's aspirations; a dominant running game, a true number one wide receiver, a tough schedule and sacks. The Bruins return four starters to the offensive line which is usually a plus; however UCLA has allowed 88 sacks the past two seasons. In the Bruins loss to Stanford last year The Cardinal defense hurried Hundley nine times and sacked four times.
The Pac-12 has five of the six toughest schedules in the nation. UCLA has the toughest schedule in the Pac-12. The three toughest games for the Bruins are against Oregon, Stanford and USC fortunately all three of those roadblocks will be at home.