A pair of 5-2 Pac-12 teams will square off in the Arizona desert this Saturday afternoon when UCLA travels east to take on Arizona State in Sun Devil Stadium.
ASU is coming off its first loss in four games after last Thursday night's 43-21 defeat at the hands of Oregon, while the Bruins are riding high after taking down Utah in Pasadena two weeks ago. Both teams are trailing USC, who leads by half a game in the Pac-12 South division, but are still alive and just one win away from becoming bowl eligible.
Here we get you set with everything you need to know for this weekend's under-the-radar conference showdown in Tempe.
Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ
When: Saturday, October 27 at 3:00 p.m. ET
Listen: KLAC 570 AM (Los Angeles), KTAR 620 AM (Tempe)
Live Streaming: Pac-12.com
Betting Line: Arizona State (-7), according to Covers.com.
The talk heading into this weekend's clash will be about the two teams' epic meeting last November in Pasadena. The Bruins outlasted the Sun Devils by one point in regulation. Arizona State scored a touchdown in every quarter but it wasn't enough to hold on as UCLA scored with just over 40 seconds remaining to win 29-28 at home.
The loss would ignite a season-ending five-game losing streak for the Sun Devils.
UCLA Injury Report
*According to USA Today
WR Jerry Johnson (Ribs), questionable for Saturday
WR Devin Lucien (Collarbone), expected to return in early December
C Greg Capella (Concussion), out indefinitely
CB Ishmael Adams (Shoulder), out for season
DE Sam Tai (Knee), out for season
S Dietrich Riley (Neck), out for season
Arizona State Injury Report
*According to USA Today
DE Junior Onyeali (Shoulder), questionable for Saturday
DT William Sutton (Knee), questionable for Saturday
DL Mike Pennel (Suspension), out indefinitely
CB Rashad Wadood (Shoulder), out for season
LB Carlos Mendoza (Shoulder), out for season
Whichever team wins on Saturday will have six wins on the year and instantly become bowl eligible at season's end.
Both teams played in a bowl game last winter, but are aiming for a BCS bowl bid in 2012, which will likely require both of them to run the table and finish with only two or maybe three losses. The loser of Saturday's game will be out of the BCS bowl race in all likelihood.
Of course if either squad could win the Pac-12 it would earn a trip to the Rose Bowl in January.
What They're Saying
UCLA and Arizona State are trying to chase down four other Pac-12 teams in the AP poll this fall according to CBS Sports via Twitter:
Pac-12 in AP Poll: No. 2 Oregon, No. 7 Oregon State, No. 10 USC, No. 19 Stanford. Just out: No. 34 Arizona, No. 35 UCLA, No. 38 ASU.— CBSSportsPac-12 (@CBSSportsPac12) October 21, 2012
Whichever side emerges victorious this weekend could perhaps forge a spot for itself in the Week 10 BCS standings.
ASU coach Todd Graham said his players are ready to tackle the challenge in front of them this Saturday (via The Arizona Republic's Jeff Metcalfe):
These guys are upset that we let our fans down, but we're ready to go forward and we want to play them again. At the end of the day, you wake up and you're still in first place. Why would you feel sorry for yourself?
The Sun Devils were embarrassed at home last week, giving up 43 first-half points to Oregon in their 22-point loss.
UCLA Player to Watch
Bruins wide receiver Shaquelle Evans had his second-best game of the season two weeks ago against Utah. The sophomore recorded four receptions for 91 yards and a score against the Utes. Evans' touchdown catch came from 64 yards out and displayed his lethal big-play ability.
The 6'1" junior from Inglewood is UCLA's leading receiver in 2012. He has 28 receptions for 413 yards and two touchdowns through the first seven games this fall.
Look for freshman quarterback Brett Hundley to target Evans early and often inside Sun Devil Stadium this weekend.
Arizona State Player to Watch
D.J. Foster will be Arizona State's No. 1 source of offense against UCLA on Saturday afternoon. The freshman tailback is the Sun Devils' leading rusher and second-leading receiver through seven games.
Foster has touched the ball 76 times this season on offense and has turned those opportunities into 657 total yards and five touchdowns. The dynamic star averages more than 8.6 yards per touch in 2012, which makes him a major threat with the ball in his hands.
Watch for Foster to lead the Sun Devils' balanced offensive attack at home Saturday.
The most important matchup to keep an eye on in this weekend's game will be the one between UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin and the Arizona State front seven. Franklin, the Bruins' leading rusher this season, is averaging nearly seven yards per carry coming in, and has rushed for at least 100 yards in five out of seven games this fall.
Meanwhile, the Sun Devils' defense is coming off a performance against Oregon in Week 8 in which it surrendered 406 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Arizona State gave up two scoring runs of more than 70 yards last Thursday night.
If Franklin can find space early on then the Sun Devils will be in for a long day, but if they can right their wrongs at the line of scrimmage, UCLA will be forced to win through the air.
On the Hot Seat
After an embarrassing defeat at home last week to Oregon, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham is in need of a signature victory in Tempe to win back the trust of the Sun Devils' fan base. Graham's squad is 3-1 at home this season, but a second straight loss at Sun Devil stadium would be disastrous for the first-year ASU coach.
It's nearly impossible to separate UCLA and Arizona State. Both teams are balanced on both sides of the ball and capable of winning anywhere. But considering the Sun Devils will be at home, I give them the edge in this matchup.
The oddsmakers like ASU by a touchdown and I agree. I predict the Sun Devils will win their sixth game of the year on Saturday and become bowl eligible.
Arizona State 31, UCLA 24
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