Five things to watch: San Jose State at UCLA


There is little doubt that UCLA should win this game, but sometimes being an overwhelming favorite can lead to a lackadaisical effort. The last time the Bruins were a big favorite was against Washington State last season and the Cougars led, 28-20, midway through the third quarter and were at the goal line with score tied at 28-28 in the fourth quarter before a Bruins goal-line stand followed by a length-of-the-field drive secured the victory. If the Bruins don’t put away the Spartans early, you know they are looking ahead to the Texas game next week.


Center Kai Maiava has been suspended from the game because of a violation of team rules, so sophomore Greg Capella will make his first start at center. Capella was the backup center last season and struggled with the shotgun snaps in practice, routinely sending low snaps that often hit the ground before reaching the quarterback. In his only game appearance — against Texas — he had a bad snap. Capella started at guard in the season opener and performed well, so blocking doesn’t figure to be an issue, but there’s a lot more going on at center. He’s the trigger point for the offense, which will be firing blanks if the snaps are bad.


UCLA’s defense left last week’s 38-34 loss to Houston embarrassed and ashamed at its performance. Poor tackling was a major issue for the Bruins, with defenders failing to wrap up ball carriers and allowing many extra yards. They also got out of position and failed to properly communicate. In short, it was a disastrous performance and the defensive players have vowed to redeem themselves. If some of those same issues crop up again and San Jose State seems to be getting yards it shouldn’t, it could mean a long-term problem is brewing for the Bruins.


It’s a 99 percent certainty that Richard Brehaut will start, but coach Rick Neuheisel is again playing coy about if he’ll also use Kevin Prince and, if so, how much. Complicating matters is that Prince is coming off of a shoulder injury suffered last week at Houston and has been limited this week in practice, especially in throwing drills. Prince has proven injury prone in his career, so it doesn’t make sense to risk aggravating his sprained shoulder in a game that UCLA should win going away no matter who is at quarterback. Also, it will be interesting to see if freshman Brett Hundley makes his debut. Neuheisel has said Hundley will play in packages this season and this lower-tier opponent might be a good spot to test the waters with him.


Certainly you’ll want to watch the score because if UCLA doesn’t win this game by at least three touchdowns, then there is definitely something amiss in Bruinland. San Jose State is a team that has lost 11 consecutive games and 26 of its last 29. The Spartans haven't won against an FBS team since 2009, and has lost its last five games against current Pac-12 teams by a combined score of 235-40, so if UCLA isn’t gradually pulling away and having its way with the Spartans, it’ll be a sign that UCLA is in for a long season. A loss would be the most embarrassing of Neuheisel's career. But the other reason to watch the scoreboard is because it’s brand new. Part of the $152-million renovation underway at the Rose Bowl is a 30-feet tall, 78-feet wide, state of the art video board at the north end of the stadium and a vintage scoreboard at the south end.