Last year, the UCLA Bruins went into Tucson and surprised the Arizona Wildcats with a variety of new tricks, highlighted by putting linebacker Myles Jack in the backfield. Jack went on to run all over the Arizona defense that night en route to a 31-26 UCLA victory.
This year, UCLA is underachieving greatly, while Arizona is sitting pretty in the race for the Pac-12 South. A win for the Wildcats would be enormous for the program heading into the stretch-run. A win for UCLA gets them back on track after struggling to put away a struggling Colorado team last week, and would put the Bruins right back into the mix for the division crown.
Both teams have very similar numbers on both sides of the ball so far this year. Arizona has been slightly better on offense (541.9 yards per game) than UCLA (494.5 yards per game), but the Bruins have the slight edge on defense (434.9 yards per game compared to 447.9).
Arizona finally has all of their offensive weapons healthy. Both running backs Terris Jones-Grigsby and Nick Wilson will likely get the bulk of the carries this weekend. Also, the Wildcats still have their ridiculously deep group of receivers. DaVonte’ Neal has started to break out the last couple of games after suffering an ankle injury in the season-opener.
The last time Anu Solomon had all of his weapons healthy, he was leading his team to a program-record 787 total yards against UNLV in the first game of the season. Definitely expect Arizona to put up some serious numbers, both on the ground and through the air.
As far as UCLA goes, this was a team that was supposed to be contending for a national championship this season. But after two losses and needing double-overtime to beat Colorado, Jim Mora was left defending the state of his program this week.
“As much gloom and doom as there is out there, I would challenge anyone to go find a UCLA team in the history of UCLA that has done what this group has done in two and a half years, with the youth that we have and the turnover we’ve had,” Mora said the day after the Colorado game.
He also needed to take the time to take a shot at former UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel.
“Let’s all remember that the last game UCLA played before this whole thing started was a 50-0 ass-kicking.”
Mora is 2-0 against Rich Rodriguez and Arizona during his tenure at UCLA, but these two teams are heading in opposite directions this season. Arizona should head into the Rose Bowl and win this game. The Wildcats are 3-0 on the road so far this season. It’ll come down to the ability of the Wildcats’ defensive line and linebackers to contain the Bruin rushing attack. UCLA currently leads the Pac-12 in rushing yards per attempt, something that Arizona typically struggles with.
And then there’s the task of stopping UCLA QB Brett Hundley. Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III says Hundley’s presence is what sticks out the most.
“He’s a big dude, he’s out there, and he doesn’t make too many mistakes,” Wright said of Hundley on Wednesday. “He’s pretty crafty, pretty shifty and he’s hard to bring down.”
As long as the Arizona defense can do the things we’ve seen them do to Oregon and Washington State this year, the Wildcats will win this game. There’s no reason the offense should struggle with all of the weapons at wide receiver and at running back. I’m expecting a shootout, with Arizona edging UCLA by a touchdown thanks to a late defensive stop from the Wildcats’ defense.
*Section Photo credit to Doug Pensinger,Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to arizonawildcats.com.