UCLA (5-2) at Arizona State (5-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 27, 3:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sun Devil Stadium (71,706) -- Tempe, Arizona. Television: FX. Home Record: UCLA 3-1, Arizona State 3-1. Away Record: UCLA 2-1, Arizona State 2-1. Neutral Record: UCLA 0-0, Arizona State 0-0. Conference Record: UCLA 2-2, Arizona State 3-1. Series Record: UCLA leads 17-10-1.
GAME NOTES: A pair of teams that have been nibbling at the national rankings will square off when the UCLA Bruins invade Sun Devil Stadium to tangle with Arizona State in a Pac-12 showdown on Saturday.
UCLA managed to make its way into the top-25 earlier this season after a 3-0 start but since then the Bruins have lost as many games as they have won and therefore have been dropped from the national rankings. The Bruins bounced back from a 43-17 rout at the hands of California last weekend with a 21-14 win over Utah. The win evened the Bruins' Pac-12 record at 2-2 and gave them a 5-2 mark overall.
Arizona State looked on the verge of breaking onto the national scene after starting 5-1 and going up 7-0 early in a massive home game against No. 2 Oregon last week. However the Sun Devils were gashed for 43 points in just the first half and 406 rushing yards en route to a 43-21 defeat. It was the first loss in conference play and ended a three-game winning streak for the Sun Devils.
This will be the 29th overall meeting between these teams in a series that UCLA leads 17-10-1. That includes a 29-28 thrilling victory at the Rose Bowl last season. UCLA is also 7-5 all-time in Tempe against the Sun Devils.
Jim Mora has transformed UCLA into one of the most productive offenses in the offense-heavy Pac-12 in his first season. Mora's Bruins are putting up 505.3 yards per game making them one of three teams in the conference to average more than 500 yards a contest. That has coincided with the fifth best scoring average (31.7 ppg) in the conference as well.
Headlining the offensive production is running back Johnathan Franklin and quarterback Brett Hundley. The redshirt freshman Hundley has had some growing pains this season but has largely been solid. Hundley is completing 66.5 percent of his pass attempts for 1,916 yards and twice as many touchdowns (14) as interceptions (seven). Hundley is also a threat with his legs with a team- high five rushing touchdowns and the second most rushing yards (240).
Franklin has given Hundley a very solid run game to rely on. Franklin has rushed for a Pac-12 leading 878 yards this season although he has found the end zone a bit less with four touchdowns. Franklin is one of only four running backs in the conference to average more than 100 yards per game and only 14 in the country to average more than 120.
There is no real standout at receiver with eight different players having at least 10 receptions but none more than 28. Shaquelle Evans leads the team in receptions and yards (413) and has been the most explosive deep threat. Meanwhile Joseph Fauria has turned five of his 19 total receptions into touchdowns to lead the team.
There is nothing particularly impressive about UCLA's defense this season. The Bruins are ranked sixth in the conference in points allowed (22.6 ppg) and eighth in yards (399.1 ypg) which is partially a product of teams needing to keep up with the high-octane offense. If there is an area of strength it is in getting to the quarterback with UCLA racking up a third-best total of sacks in the conference (23).
Anthony Barr (11.0 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks) has largely been responsible for that production, although Datone Jones (11.0 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks) has also been effective up front. Eric Kendricks is the only player to have reached the 50-tackle mark with 57 thus far.
With the Sun Devils struggling to keep up with Oregon last Thursday, head coach Todd Graham took out starting quarterback Taylor Kelly to give Michael Eubank a shot. Eubank, who is a redshirt freshman had almost identical numbers as Kelly with 123 yards passing on 10-of-19 passing with a touchdown and two interceptions. Kelly (10-for-18, 93 yards, 2 INTs, TD) was no better but will be back under center this weekend. Other than the Oregon game, Kelly has been sensational, completing 67.0 percent of his passes for 1,693 yards and 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Kelly is also a threat with his legs with 248 rushing yards this season.
A trio of running backs have been the driving force of the offense. D.J. Foster has really established himself as the most dynamic offensive player on the team with a team-high 310 yards rushing while also ranking second in receptions (22), receiving yards (347) and receiving touchdowns (3). Cameron Marshall (292 yards, 5 TDs) and Marion Grice (254 yards, 5 TDs) have also been important contributors in the backfield.
Chris Coyle has steadily turned into Kelly's favorite target this season. The tight end has team-highs in both receptions (35) and yards (442).
Overall Arizona State has been one of the better offensive teams in the Pac-12, ranking fourth in total yards (468.9 ypg) and third in scoring (37.7 ppg).
Before the beating the Sun Devils got from Oregon, Arizona State was the best defense in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils have managed to remain the top team in total yards (298.6 ypg) but dropped to third in scoring (18.3 ppg). Even more concerning is how weak the Sun Devils looked against the run. Arizona State did hold the Ducks to just 48 yards passing but that was largely due to the ineffective run defense.
Chris Young has been stellar at safety for the Sun Devils racking up a team- high in tackles (51) while having the second most tackles for loss (12.5). Akron transfer Brandon MaGee has been solid at linebacker with 49 total tackles. The defense will suffer without Will Sutton who is out with a knee injury. Sutton had been an absolute force up front with team-highs in tackles for loss (14) and sacks (8.5). Sutton also leads the Pac-12 in both of those categories.
If either of these teams are going to have a say in the Pac-12 title chase a win in this game is crucial. UCLA has the more productive offense but Arizona State has also shown some explosiveness. Look for the Sun Devils' defense to recover from the loss to Oregon and slow the Bruins enough to earn a win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arizona State 30, UCLA 21
10/24 10:37:30 ET