UCLA safety Tony Dye and a teammate bring down Houston running back Michael… (Bob Levey/Getty Images )
This a buy week for UCLA, and that's not a typographical error. The Bruins are underwriting San Jose State's visit with a guaranteed $425,000 and, given their 30-3 record against Western Athletic Conference teams, a win is expected. Staff writer Chris Foster examines the game's issues and matchups:
The run down
UCLA has allowed 150 or more yards rushing in seven of its last eight games, losing all seven. Last week, Houston ran for 159 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown run by Michael Hayes, during which he all but gave high-fives to three Bruins.
"We have to be better at tackling this week," UCLA linebacker Patrick Larimore said.
San Jose State gained 27 yards in 32 carries during its 57-3 loss to sixth-ranked Stanford. "Some of it was mistakes, some of it was we just got whipped," Spartans Coach Mike MacIntyre said.
Can San Jose State make necessary corrections? Can UCLA?
UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel was coy this week, saying Richard Brehaut "probably" would start at quarterback, but that Kevin Prince would be available.
Prince suffered a sprained right shoulder against Houston and was limited in practice this week. All indications are that Brehaut will start and Prince will be held out unless the situation demands otherwise.
"They are similar quarterbacks and they do the same things with them," MacIntyre said.
What has piqued the interest of Bruins fans is the possibility that Brett Hundley could make his UCLA debut. Hundley, a marquee freshman, was picking up additional reps in practice this week.
The catch is . . .
The Spartans' strength, MacIntyre said, is their receivers — Los Angeles Crenshaw High product Noel Grigsby in particular. He had eight receptions against Stanford.
MacIntyre likes UCLA's receivers, too. He singled out 6-foot-5 Nelson Rosario, who reached around a Houston defender to make a one-handed catch, pinning the ball against his opponent's back while bear-hugging him.
"That was an unbelievable catch he made," MacIntyre said. "It kind of reminds me of playing Nerf football. That's how he looked catching it."
By the numbers
San Jose hasn't beaten a team from a Bowl Championship Series conference since handling a 5-7 Illinois team in 2002. The Spartans — winners of only three games the last two seasons — have lost 15 consecutive road games.
UCLA's record against non-BCS teams under Neuheisel is 3-3. The Bruins' record at the Rose Bowl under their fourth-year coach is 10-8.
The Bruins are 21-point favorites.
San Jose State is the Spartans and the university's band is coming to the Rose Bowl for the game.
But Bruins fans can relax. The band's drum major carries a baton, not a sword. So, unlike when USC comes to Pasadena, UCLA's midfield logo should be safe.