The college football season heads into Week 5 with a Friday night showdown of unbeatens between the 15th-ranked Washington Huskies and the UCLA Bruins.
#15 Washington Huskies (4-0) at UCLA Bruins (4-0)
How to Watch:
- Date: Friday, September 30th
- Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
- Location: Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA
- Channel: ESPN
Washington has had a tremendous start to the season under first-year head coach Kaleb DeBoer. The Huskies are 4-0 and are ranked 15th in the nation. They have a Top 25 win on their resume with a win over Michigan State and have been just enforcing their will on teams, outscoring opponents 176-76 through four weeks.
DeBoer was known for his innovative offensive approach when he was coaching at Fresno State, and he quickly turned this Huskies team into a potent offense that is 4th in the nation in passing success rate and 12th in pass blocking success.
Moving the ball through the air is clearly their go-to strategy and it helps that they have a great signal-caller to do that in Indiana transfer Michael Pennix Jr.
Penix Jr. leads the FBS with 347.0 passing yards per game despite being in a quarterback battle all through the offseason and not being named the starter until right before the season. Through four games, he is completing 65 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and just one interception and is a big reason why Washington just put up 478 total yards of offense in a 40-22 blowout win over Stanford.
If there is a matchup for the Huskies and Penniz Jr. to take advantage of, it is this passing game against a suspect UCLA secondary that allowed 258 yards and a touchdown to a Colorado freshman quarterback making his first career start. The Bruins rank 48th in the country in pass success rate on defense, and the struggles against Colorado are a concern since the Buffaloes have the worst passing offense in the Pac-12.
However, Chip Kelly’s UCLA Bruins did win that game against Colorado 45-17 win and are improving after they narrowly escaped an upset bid at home to South Alabama in Week 3, winning by just one point.
The bigger concern for the Bruins may be nagging injuries to two stars that make up essentially all of their offense.
Star playmakers running back Zach Charbonnet and quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson have accounted for 58 percent of the team’s total offensive production and 14 of the 21 total touchdowns.
However, despite a lingering injury, Charbonnet rushed for 104 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries against Colorado, so he should be rested and ready to go against a Huskies defense that is 31st in rush success rate on defense. Considering UCLA is 18th in the nation in rush success rate on offense and their offensive line is paving the way for 5.7 yards per carry, expect the Bruins to have the ball on the ground a lot.
Yet, we shouldn’t forget about fifth-year senior Dorian Thompson-Robinson, once a big-time recruit who has seen his time with the Bruins marked by injuries and inconsistency. Until this season. In 2022, Thompson-Robinson has completed 74.8% of his passes for 896 passing yards, with eight touchdowns and just one interception while adding 170 rushing yards and two more scores on the ground.
He is more than capable of attacking the Huskies through the air since this UCLA offense is 10th in the country in passing success rate, and the offensive line has given up only five sacks so far. With 8.2 average yards per attempt Thompson-Robinson has shown he can push the ball down the field, which he’ll need to do for the Bruins to win this game at home.
Top Player Props:
At the end of the day, I think that this is going to be a bit too stiff a test for the Huskies on the road. I expect Pennix to struggle a bit more than he has, so I’m going to take the under on what’s a high total. I also think Thompson-Robinson will have some success through the air against a Huskies defense that has allowed 8.3 yards per pass attempt and is 81st in the nation in expected points added per pass.
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