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UCLA VS. NO. 18 BYU : Today at Provo, Utah, 12:30 p.m.
PDT, Versus

Pulling rank?

UCLA upset Tennessee, but a victory over another top foe would do wonders.

September 13, 2008

UCLA will be trying to prove that its season-opening victory over Tennessee wasn't that much of an upset. Times staff writer Chris Foster looks at some of the key issues and matchups when the Bruins play the Cougars:

The Hall truth

Being considered among the best quarterbacks in school history is tough at Brigham Young, where the bar is set high -- Steve Young, Robbie Bosco, Ty Detmer, Jim McMahon, et al. Max Hall, though, is looking for a place on that list. He has passed for 824 yards in two games, both victories.

This will be his third shot in a little more than a year at the Bruins, prompting Hall to tell the Salt Lake Tribune, "I almost have all their games memorized now."

The Bruins have him embedded in their minds as well. Hall passed for 622 yards against them in two games last season and will face a secondary that had to replace three starters.

It's Chow time

Anyone questioning whether offensive coordinator Norm Chow deserves his lofty reputation, please review the second half of the Tennessee game. Chow has won with great talent in the past, true, but he adjusted on the fly and squeezed 20 second-half points out of an offense that:

Couldn't run the ball.

Completed only one pass longer than 20 yards.

Lost three senior starters to injuries in the first 11 minutes.

This week, UCLA faces a defense that has replaced eight starters from last season and will be without linebacker Vic So'oto, who has a broken foot. But whether the Bruins' running game can improve on its 0.9-yards-per-carry average in the opener remains to be seen.

Grounded

UCLA and BYU split their games last season, with the Bruins giving up only 17 points in each, in part because defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker's various schemes slowed the Cougars' usually high-scoring offense.

While Hall was flinging away, the Cougars' running game ground to a halt. The Bruins' speed and gang tackling limited BYU to a total of 78 yards in the two games. Harvey Unga, the Cougars' 6-foot, 239-pound running back, gained 1,227 yards last season -- but only 44 against UCLA.

BC-mess

The phrase that pays for UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel this week? Repeat (and repeat) after him: "They have won 12 in a row and 24 of 28," noting that BYU has the longest current winning streak in the nation, as beating Colorado State, Nevada Las Vegas, Wyoming, San Diego State and Eastern Washington do count.

Victory is a must if BYU is to achieve its BCS dreams -- one-loss teams from non-BCS conferences don't go to big bowl games. A 22-game winning streak is the only way for the Cougars.

"They have certainly earned the right to be mentioned with what are being called BCS busters," Neuheisel said.

"They have won 12 in row and 24 of 28."

Yeah, we'd heard that.

Bruins or ruins?

Rarely does a team have a watershed moment so early in the season, but this seems to be it for UCLA. Win and gather momentum like a snowball rolling downhill. Lose and the prospect of advancing to a decent bowl game will be about the same as a snowball's chance in . . .

You get the drift.

Pac-10 dominance?

BYU has defeated four of its last five Pacific 10 Conference opponents -- two in bowl games. The only loss was to UCLA, 27-17, 370 days ago.

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By the numbers

*--* UCLA CATEGORY BYU 27.0 Scoring 34.5 24.0 Points given up 22.0 259.0 Passing off. 412.0 29.0. Rushing off. 109.5 288.0 Total offense 521.5 189.0 Passing def. 208.5 177.0 Rushing def. 141.0 366.0 Total defense 349.5 *--*

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Provo proving ground (D1)

UCLA (1-0) is out to establish legitimacy at BYU (2-0).

Hall pass: Quarterback Max Hall has torched Bruins.

Chow time: Can he win another chess match?

Grounded: UCLA has slowed BYU's running game.

Pressure: BYU can't have slip-up in quest for a big bowl.

Raising the bar: Road win in Utah would prove a lot.

BYU history: Cougars have had success against Pac-10.

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