|Quarterback Taylor Martinez will try to lead the Cornhuskers over the Bruins on Saturday. (AP Images)|
Kickoff: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
Spread: Nebraska by 4
Watchability: Any late afternoon game staged at the Rose Bowl is watchable because of the venue but Saturday's matchup is particularly intriguing due to the talent Nebraska will bring to Pasadena. The game may well be an offensive showcase as the two teams combined for 1,278 yards last week.
Shining Stars: Nebraska: Taylor Martinez was efficient (26-of-34) through the air and mistake free (5 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) last Saturday in what amounted to his best game in his three years under center for the Huskers. He'll need to be equally careful against the Bruins, who were fourth in the Pac-12 last season with 14 interceptions. UCLA: The Bruins amassed 646 yards of offense last week against Rice and were surprisingly balanced, throwing for 303 and rushing for 343. The star was senior Johnathan Franklin, who rushed for two touchdowns and 214 yards – two shy of his career-high set in 2010. It's just the third time in his career that he's rushed for at least two touchdowns. There was even more pressure on Franklin given that the Bruins debuted their redshirt freshman QB Brett Hundley last week.
Who could steal the show: Nebraska: As of Wednesday, coach Bo Pelini had yet to rule out RB Rex Burkhead playing in Saturday's game despite a knee injury against Southern Miss. last week. If the senior doesn't play, expect the Husker offense to take a more aerial approach vs. UCLA and focus on senior TE Kyler Reed. Last week, Reed caught five passes for 57 yards and a touchdown and looked more like the player who caught eight touchdown passes his sophomore year, instead of the one who caught just one last season. His blocking is also a boon to the running game with either Burkhead or Ameer Abdullah in the backfield. UCLA: Hundley was beyond impressive in his debut last Saturday against Rice, completing 21-of-28 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns and an interception. As if the Bruin ground game needed another dimension, the freshman also scrambled for 68 yards and touchdown. Nebraska allowed 185 rushing yards in last week's game and an average of 158 per game last season, just the 64th-best in the country. Expect UCLA to exploit this weakness.
You going? Ranking the road trip: UCLA's preeminent non-conference game against a major Big Ten opponent at the Rose Bowl to kickoff their home schedule? I sure would.
Magic Number: Nebraska: 6. The amount of times Taylor Martinez ran against Southern Miss. It's just the third time in his 25 games played that he's had less than 10 attempts. His 10 yards last week were the second lowest total of his career.
Magic Number: UCLA: 14.3. The amount of yards Johnathan Franklin averaged on each of his 15 rushing attempts last week, highlighted by a 78-yard run. If you remove his long run, the senior still averaged 9.9 yards/ carry. Franklin's 5.9 ypc average last season represents the third-most of any returning running back in the conference.
The game will come down to: Which defense can withstand the other's high-powered offense. UCLA threw for 303 yards but it was against Rice. Nebraska held Southern Miss to just 75 yards passing. Even though the game is expected to be close, the Bruins will need to be much more disciplined against a far superior team. UCLA committed eight penalties for 107 yards last week and any untimely penalties could cost them a close game.
Prediction: Nebraska 31-24
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