UCLA has long been overshadowed by crosstown USC when it comes to football success. But the Bruins should have the best QB in Los Angeles this year in Josh Rosen. He's +1600 on college football odds to win the second Heisman in school history.
Best Freshman QB Season In UCLA History
While Southern Cal is tied with Ohio State for the most Heisman winners with seven -- well, seven Trojans won the Heisman Trophy (including a guy named O.J. Simpson. What's he been up to?) but Reggie Bush's 2005 Heisman has been vacated due to him accepting money while in college -- UCLA has just one winner of college football's top award.
That was senior quarterback Gary Beban in 1967 with statistics that look pretty average in the modern game. Beban threw for 1,359 yards and eight touchdowns while rushing for 227 and 11 scores. UCLA just missed on a possible national title shot in losing to USC 21-20 in the penultimate game of that regular season when the Bruins were ranked No. 1 and USC No. 4. But Beban won the Heisman Trophy in a close vote over USC's Simpson, who would win it the next year.
UCLA has had some good quarterbacks in its history, but Rosen could go down as the best in Westwood and he's already being mentioned as the top overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Rosen enrolled early at UCLA last year as a five-star true freshman and the top QB recruit in the nation. There was never much doubt that Rosen would win the starting job -- and he did.
And in Rosen's first college game, he showed what all the hype was about in going 28-for-35 for 351 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a win over Virginia. No true freshman had ever started a season opener at quarterback for UCLA previously. As true freshman are likely to do, Rosen had his ups-and-downs. He struggled in a close win over BYU with three interceptions and threw two picks in a loss at USC for the Pac-12 South title.
Overall, however, Rosen set numerous school records in being named a Freshman All-American, the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year and the Pac-12 Newcomer of the year. Among his records were most consecutive passing attempts without an interception (245); most passes attempted in a game (57) most passing yards by a true freshman in a game (399); most passing yards in a season by a true freshman (3,688); most 300-yard passing games in a season (tied with six); most TD passes thrown by a true freshman (23); most completions in a game (34); most passing attempts in a season (487); and most passing yards per game in a season (282.2).
The Bruins finished 8-5 overall after losing to Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl.
What To Expect From UCLA In 2016
UCLA is set to return 11 starters this season and just four on offense. Gone to the NFL are one of the Pac-12's top running backs in Paul Perkins (237 carries, 1,343 yards, 14 TDs) and Rosen's No. 1 target in receiver Jordan Payton (78 catches, 1,106 yards, five TDs). UCLA also must replace three starters on the offensive line and coordinator Noel Mazzone, who left for the same position at Texas A&M.
Coach Jim Mora promoted running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu to the job. Ironically, Polamalu is a former USC player and coach. He was the Trojans' offensive coordinator from 2010-12, but head coach Lane Kiffin called the offensive plays. The Bruins are installing more of a pro-style offense to suit Rosen's talents. Here was Mora's take on the reason for that:
"In looking at his skill set, it became apparent that we needed to make some changes to enhance his ability to make plays," Mora explained. "So, for one, putting him in a little bit more of a pro-style offense, putting him under center more and working some play-action game. I think being able to run the ball more effectively will open up some things in the passing game for him in play-action stuff because he's so good at that."
College football odds give Rosen totals of 3,500.5 passing yards and 24.5 passing TDs this year, more specifically in Bovada. The Bruins open their season Sept. 3 at Texas A&M, which is an early 1.5-point favorite. UCLA also has a tough trip to BYU on Sept. 17 before opening Pac-12 play. The Bruins avoid Oregon and Washington from the Pac-12 North Division but face a very good North Division Stanford team and defense on Sept. 24 in Pasadena. Rosen was 22-for-42 for 326 yards, three TDs and two picks in a 56-35 loss to the Cardinal last year.
Free NCAAF Picks: I actually think UCLA will win the South. Go 'over' on the yards and TDs for Rosen. Only three sophomores have won the Heisman and not since Alabama's Mark Ingram in 2009. I don't think Rosen wins this year, but I give him a decent shot of being a finalist. He is +750 to be invited to New York. Rosen will then be a top betting favorite entering the 2017 season.
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