The upcoming clash between the UCLA Bruins (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) and the Arizona State Sun Devils (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) will have major implications in the Pac-12 South title hunt. A win for the Devils would give them a two-game lead over the Bruins and keep them in step with USC atop the division. A loss would lift UCLA into a second-place knot with ASU and give the Bruins the all-important, head-to-head tiebreaker.
Jim Mora and the Bruins are fresh off a much-needed bye in Week 8, while Arizona State is coming off an epic beat down at the hands of the mighty Oregon Ducks. Look for both teams to be fired up and ready to go, especially after last season's crazy finish at the Rose Bowl.
When: Saturday, Oct. 27 at 3p.m. ET
Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ
Listen: Free Football Radio
Betting Line: Arizona State -6.5 (via OddsShark.com)
The Sun Devils are favored by a touchdown over the Bruins, but that line is likely to change depending on the injury news along ASU's defensive line. DE Junior Onyeali is listed as probable, but DT Will Sutton is doubtful to play against the Bruins. Unless the line drastically changes before kickoff, UCLA could be an underdog worth betting on.
Injury Report (via USA TODAY)
WR Jerry Johnson, Probable (Ribs)
WR Darius Bell, Doubtful (Ribs)
WR Devin Lucien, OUT (Collarbone)
CB Ishmael Adams, OUT (Shoulder)
C Greg Capella, OUT (Concussion)
DL Mike Pennel, Probable (Suspension)
OL Andrew Sampson, Probable (Ankle)
DE Junior Onyeali, Probable (Shoulder)
DT William Sutton, Doubtful (Knee)
CB Rashad Wadood, OUT (Shoulder)
LB Carlos Mendoza, OUT (Shoulder)
BCS/Top 25 Implications
UCLA and Arizona State were both ranked at one point this season, the Bruins reaching as high as No. 19 in the AP and Coaches' polls, and the Devils nabbing a No. 24 ranking for one week.
Heading into this weekend's dance in the desert, UCLA and ASU are both receiving votes in the AP Top 25 and Coaches poll. The winning team will improve to 6-2 and have a chance to re-enter the rankings, while the 5-3 loser will tumble out of the voting entirely.
If either of these teams is going to make a run to the BCS, the road would likely go through Eugene. Even as Pac-12 South champions, the Bruins or Sun Devils getting to the Rose Bowl would be a tall task. After the contest this Saturday, only one will stand with the faintest outside chance to topple the Trojans and Ducks and shock the college football world.
Key Matchup When ASU Has the Ball
For UCLA to stand a chance in Tempe, the Bruins' secondary will need to hold strong, locking down coverage and taking away QB Taylor Kelly's primary looks. The matchup between Arizona State's offensive weapons and UCLA's defensive backs figures to be the most important head-to-head struggle of the night.
The Bruin defenders have battled inconsistency so far in 2012, reverting to habits like missing tackles and drawing bad flags. The Sun Devils have some serious firepower on their sideline, with Kelly's arm and RB Marion Grice's legs plenty capable of burning an undisciplined D.
The ASU attack has rolled up over 3,200 yards of total offense, including nine TDs from Grice. The UCLA defense will have to wrap up on the second and third levels, as the Devils love to get their athletes out in space on screens and misdirections.
If the Bruins fail to execute cleanly on defense, Arizona State has a chance to put a big number on the scoreboard.
Key Matchup When UCLA Has the Ball
When the Bruins line up on offense, the most pivotal matchup will pit the UCLA rushing attack against an ASU defense that ranks first in the Pac-12 in sacks and total defense. When healthy, the Sun Devil front seven is one of the most formidable in the conference and could eat up the inexperienced UCLA offensive line.
But the Devils' best unit also happens to be their thinnest: a reality that the Oregon Ducks so easily exploited last Thursday when Onyeali and Sutton both went down with Injuries.
Onyeali is expected to play, which gives ASU a spark in the pass-rush. But without Sutton, UCLA's offense should be able to grind it out, led by redshirt senior RB Johnathan Franklin.
Franklin leads the Pac-12 in rushing with 878 yards on 130 attempts, which works out to a hefty 6.8 yards per carry. The vocal captain could rack up major yardage on the Bermuda grass at Sun Devil Stadium if the Arizona State defenders can't plug up the running lanes. Sutton would have given ASU the advantage in the trenches, but his absence is a huge liability.
One bright spot for the Devils' defensive front is the return of 6'5", 355-pound junior Mike Pennel, who will reportedly come off suspension in Week 9.
Prediction: UCLA 31, Arizona State 28
Because of injuries and inconsistencies on both defensive rosters, this matchup has the potential to be very high-scoring. Both offenses have shown explosiveness this season, and will be looking to set the tone early.
If the ASU defense were full-speed and healthy, the Bruins would be in for a long night. But with the information that is available today, it looks like UCLA has a slight edge on paper.
This game will be closely contested the whole way through and could come down to a late field goal. Neither team has had stellar kicking so far this year, as freshman Ka'imi Fairbairn is 9-of-14 for UCLA, and sophomore Alex Garoutte is 6-of-11 for the Devils. ASU walk-on K Jon Mora may get the start over Garoutte. Mora is 1-for-2 on field goal attempts this season.