Bowling Green at UCLA
When: 11:30 a.m. Saturday
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena
TV/Radio: Pac-12 Networks; 1150 AM
Line: UCLA by 23.5
Notable injury designations: N/A
What’s at stake? UCLA will play five of its first six games at the Rose Bowl, and could use a dominant win against a MAC opponent to kick off a favorable early-season schedule. Head coach Chip Kelly noted a desire to use his depth early in the season, which on Saturday will be a multi-pronged goal with temperatures expected to soar into the triple digits in Pasadena. The Bruins would benefit from getting off to a big lead, allowing Kelly to cycle through the roster a bit to both take a look at players further down the roster and keep key players from having to stay on the field in the heat for over three hours. A sluggish start wouldn’t be the end of the world for UCLA, which should have the luxury over the first month of the season to adjust and overcome mistakes.
Who’s better? The Bruins clearly have the edge in star power, based on strength of conferences and recent recruiting classes. Bowling Green is coming off a 4-8 campaign and hasn’t had a winning season in six years. This game will mark the first time a MAC school will play in the Rose Bowl since the start of the FBS era.
Matchup to watch: UCLA secondary vs. Bowling Green quarterback Matt McDonald. This will be a good test for a unit looking to start off strong under new defensive coordinator Bill McGovern. McDonald is an experienced, pass-first quarterback who threw for 2,555 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He also has the potential to extend plays and throw on the run. UCLA was last in the Pac-12 in 2021 defending the pass, giving up 260.2 passing yards per game.
UCLA wins if …: If the secondary keeps McDonald from a career performance through the air … if Dorian Thompson-Robinson meshes with fresh targets to pick apart Bowling Green’s pass defense, which led the MAC last season despite giving up 30.7 points per game as a whole … if Bowling Green doesn’t play a near-perfect game.
Prediction: UCLA 42, Bowling Green 17. The gap between the two programs is too big for this to be much of a contest, though the experience at the quarterback position for Bowling Green has potential to ruffle a UCLA defense in its first game under a new defensive coordinator. Thompson-Robinson and running back Zach Charbonnet should have strong season debuts, as Thompson-Robinson looks to also build chemistry with some new receivers. The defense may give up a few points as McGovern works in his scheme.