They are getting noticed.
The national rankings, the player of the week awards, the hubbub of the sporting events were a prelude to the joy that gripped the UCLA Bruins on the eve of their final matchup.
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 movie sessions. Most importantly, they they were not the team that was the butt of all the jokes Clinton made while posing as a Washington coach berating his players.
The clip showed UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson dodging two Husky defenders colliding on the goal line, prompting Clinton to say, “Everyone meets like old friends. I mean, this is embarrassing, right? He made all of you hug! Look how long they stay in that position.”
What kind of fun could be next for UCLA? It depends on what happens against defending Pac-12 Conference champion Utah on Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl.
“Ranking is 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, you have to go back to work.
“We know we beat Washington last week because of our preparation throughout the week. We know that if we are going to beat Utah, it will be thanks to our preparation during the week. Things don’t just happen to you, hope is not a strategy. You have to put the work in.
Here are four things to watch when the No. 18 Bruins (5-0 overall, 2-0 Pac-12) take on No. 11 Utah (4-1, 2-0) at 12:30 p.m. 11, Fox sports app):
No one on the UCLA roster was on the team the last time the Bruins beat Utah. Some were just starting high school.
Longtime UCLA linebacker Jayon Brown capped off a solid defensive effort by recovering a fumble with a minute left to preserve the Bruins’ 17-9 win over the Utes…on Nov. 21, 2015 .
It’s been all over Utah ever since, the Utes winning the last five games in an interrupted 2020 series when teams didn’t play due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Utah faced a backup quarterback in three of those games due to injuries, with UCLA taking out backup 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 on Saturday.
These teams are very similar in the way they win 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. Teams also rank 1-2 in the conference in rushing attempts (Utah is 195 to UCLA’s 193), passing efficiency (Utah is 171.23 to UCLA’s 169.26), and completion percentage (Utah is 73.4% to UCLA). 69.7% from UCLA).
Thompson-Robinson and his Utah counterpart, Cam Rising, might claim to be the best Pac-12 quarterbacks this season, but UCLA could top the Utes with their Z-factor: Zach Charbonnet. The senior running back is averaging 104.2 yards per game, trailing only California’s Jaydn Ott (106.4 yards) in the Pac-12. Utah’s best running back is Tavion Thomas, who is averaging 59 yards.
There will be some brotherly love, although it will probably have to wait until after the game.
UCLA senior linebacker Bo Calvert will face his two younger brothers in Utah, second-year linebacker Josh Calvert and redshirt freshman linebacker Ethan Calvert. Josh had started his college career in Washington before transferring.
While neither Josh nor Ethan feature on Utah’s depth chart, Bo has been a constant contributor to the Bruins, forcing one fumble this season and recovering another.
The brothers played together at Oaks Christian High in Westlake Village and this will likely be the last time they all dress up at the same game. How will her parents handle their broken loyalties?
“They’ve got little hoodies that they’ve made, things like that, with our faces on it,” Bo said, “and they’re half Utah, half UCLA, so it should be fun.”
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 increase attendance.
The Bruins are averaging 32,890 fans for home games this season, putting them on pace for an all-time 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 are at reduced capacity due to stadium renovations.
The good news for UCLA is that interest is on the rise. A season-high crowd of 41,343 turned out for the Bruins’ 40-32 victory over Washington on Sept. 30, with an even larger crowd expected on 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.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.