UCLA at Rice 

Kickoff: Thursday, 7:36 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)

Spread: UCLA by 15.5

Watchability: Enough. UCLA coach Jim L. Mora’s first foray into the college game should make this entertaining, but the Bruins’ new offense under Noel Mazzone also has the potential to be exciting under redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley.

Shining stars: UCLA: Though he’s toiled through relative obscurity, running back Johnathan Franklin could go down as the Bruins’ all-time leading rusher. He and fellow 2008 recruit Datone Jones, a 6-foot-4, 275-pound defensive end, are hoping to reverse their UCLA fortunes, starting Thursday. Rice: Sophomore cornerback Bryce Callahan (six INTs as a redshirt freshman in 2011) might make things difficult for Hundley in his debut.

Who could steal the show: UCLA: Senior tight end Joseph Fauria and junior wide receiver Shaquelle Evans form a potent pass-catching tandem and should be featured often. Rice: Senior tight end Luke Willson is exactly the kind of player who has torched the Bruins up the seams in the past. The 6-5, 250-pound target has 62 catches the last two years and could add a half-dozen against UCLA.

You going? Ranking the road trip: Not if you paid for the gas. Muggy Houston in late-August with a chance of showers? Not even Mora’s debut makes it worth it.

Magic number for UCLA: 0. The Owls don’t exactly have the most imposing front seven in college football, but if the Bruins’ makeshift offensive line protects Hundley – that means no sacks – it bodes well for the unit.

Magic number for Rice: 169. The last times the two teams met -- a 26-16 UCLA win at the Rose Bowl in 2006 -- the Owls allowed 338 rushing yards. They’ll need to cut that number in half to have a chance.

The game comes down to: UCLA’s ability to run its new offense and defense. Not only are the Bruins working out the kinks in the new N-Zone offense, but they have to adjust to new defensive coordinator Lou Spanos’ 3-4 scheme.

Prediction: UCLA 31, Rice 17

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