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UCLA freshman quarterback Josh Rosen is fourth in the Pac-12 in touchdown passes, but tied for second in interceptions.
Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press
UCLA freshman quarterback Josh Rosen is fourth in the Pac-12 in touchdown passes, but tied for second in interceptions.

Key matchup

CU running offense vs. UCLA run defense

UCLA ranks 104th nationally in rushing defense, allowing 203.4 yards per game. CU ranks 40th in rushing offense, at 189.2 yards per game. The Buffs, however, have not had great success on the ground in Pac-12 play, averaging just 106.3. CU has improved its running in the past couple of games, and racked up 171 yards last week against Oregon State. Finding consistent success on the ground against the Bruins will greatly improve CU’s chances of getting a victory.

Buffaloes at a glance

Record: 4-4 (1-3 Pac-12); won at Oregon State, 17-13, last week.

Statistical leaders

Passing — Sefo Liufau, Jr.: 161 of 262, 1,887 yards, 9 TD, 3 INT.

Rushing — Phillip Lindsay, So.: 96 carries, 465 yards, 5 TD.

Receiving — Nelson Spruce, Sr.: 51 catches, 563 yards, 2 TD.

Tackles — Rick Gamboa, Fr.: 55 tackles (28 solo).

3 questions facing CU

1. Can the Buffs get a winning streak going?

Last week, CU snapped its 14-game Pac-12 losing streak, and the Buffs bring an extra measure of confidence into this week. UCLA presents a much tougher challenge than Oregon State, though. The Buffs haven’t won back-to-back conference games since 2010, when they were in the Big 12. They haven’t won in consecutive weeks on the road, conference or otherwise, since 1994.

2. Who will play up front?

Late in last week’s game, the Buffs lost starting guard Jonathan Huckins and starting right tackle Sam Kronshage to injuries. Their status for this week is unclear. The Buffs will get Gerrad Kough (seven starts) back, but playing without Huckins and/or Kronshage would be difficult. Those two have combined to play 845 snaps this year. CU’s offensive line depth is young and inexperienced, but it may have to rely on that depth this week.

3. How much success can the Buffs have running the ball?

At times, CU’s run game looks pretty good, but it has averaged just 106.3 yards per game and 2.8 yards per carry in Pac-12 play. UCLA, meanwhile, gives up 203.9 yards per game on the ground, tying for 10th in the conference. If CU can get tailbacks Patrick Carr, Donovan Lee, Phillip Lindsay and Christian Powell going, it can chew up some clock and keep the chains moving on offense.

Bottom line: Beating the Bruins in the Rose Bowl is a tough task for anybody, but especially for a CU team that hasn’t defeated a ranked team in a long time. The Buffs have played well against UCLA the past two years, however, so they could come into this one inspired. Pull an upset and it could be a program-changing afternoon for Colorado.

Bruins at a glance

Record: 5-2 (2-2 Pac-12); beat California, 40-24, last week.

Statistical leaders

Passing — Josh Rosen, Fr.: 158 of 257, 1,967 yards, 15 TD, 7 INT.

Rushing — Paul Perkins, Jr.: 125 rushes, 754 yards, 8 TD.

Receiving — Jordan Payton, Sr.: 37 catches, 546 yards, 4 TD.

Tackles — Isaako Savaiinaea, Jr.: 49 tackles (34 solo), 1.5 sacks, 1 INT.

3 questions facing UCLA

1. How healthy are the Bruins in the backfield?

Perkins left last week’s game against Cal with a knee injury and backup Nate Starks, a sophomore, missed the Cal game with a head injury. It’s possible one or both will play against the Buffs. Regardless, the Bruins also have true freshmen Soso Jamabo (5.9 average on 47 rushes) and Bolu Olorunfunmi (5.9 average on 30 rushes), who have done well when given a chance. It would be interesting to see how they perform if asked to carry the load for a whole game.

2. Will quarterback Josh Rosen avoid costly miscues?

So far, it’s been a phenomenal season for Rosen, but he certainly hasn’t been perfect. He’s fourth in the Pac-12 in TD passes, but tied for second in interceptions. Early in his career, Rosen looks to have the Brett Favre mentality of trying to make a spectacular play when everything around him is in chaos. That has led to Rosen making some brilliant throws, and it’s led to him making a few mistakes. If Rosen is pressured against the Buffs, UCLA needs him to make the brilliant plays.

3. Can the defense force the Buffs to the air?

UCLA opponents have gouged the Bruins at time with big runs and big yards on the ground. That proved pivotal in UCLA losses to Arizona State and Stanford, and it helped keep BYU close. The Bruins are exceptional against the pass, though, leading the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense. Opponents have completed just 54.5 percent of their passes against the Bruins, for only 193.1 yards per game.

Bottom line: UCLA may not be as good as their No. 7 national ranking from a few weeks ago, but the Bruins are still among the Pac-12’s elite teams. They’ve got all the pieces to win this one convincingly. The opportunity to win the Pac-12 South is still there, and UCLA has to keep that focus and take care of business against the Buffs.

— Brian Howell

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