Arizona Wildcats vs. UCLA Bruins: Complete Game Preview
In the hunt for a third-straight Pac-12 South Division title, the No. 16 UCLA Bruins (6-2) hit the road and will take on the Arizona Wildcats (6-2) in Tucson.
Last season, the Bruins absolutely obliterated the Wildcats at the Rose Bowl by a score of 66-10. The ridiculous scoreline should give Rich Rodriguez and his team more than enough motivation for this contest.
Both teams could win the South Division. The loser of this game honestly could essentially be eliminated from contention.
Here's what you need to know about the contest:
Date: Nov. 9
Time: 7:00 p.m. PT
Place: Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: XM Sirius Radio
Line: UCLA -1 by VegasInsider.com
Arizona Keys to Victory
Rattle Brett Hundley
Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel employs a funky 3-3-5 formation. It's a rather unconventional defense to prepare for and certainly not one that UCLA has seen this season. This defense is designed to utilize speed from different spots on the field.
Aside from having versatility with his players, Casteel's play-calling is somewhat unpredictable. He will bring pressure from all over the field in an effort to disrupt the rhythm of UCLA's offense. Mirroring what Utah, Oregon and Stanford did, expect a lot of blitzing.
Get the crowd going
UCLA has not won at Arizona since 2003. For whatever reason, the Bruins immensely struggle when making the trip to Tucson. If the Wildcats can force an early turnover, it would in theory get the crowd exceptionally loud.
The frenetic atmosphere isn't exactly conducive for success on the road. UCLA is a young team and could falter in the midst of a raucous crowd.
UCLA Keys to Victory
Bottle up Ka'Deem Carey
UCLA absolutely cannot let Carey dominate the game on the ground. Arizona's offense is predicated upon the run. If Carey's running the ball effectively, it opens up the pass game and play action for signal-caller B.J. Denker.
Also, Carey's ability to run the ball well will chew up clock and keep UCLA's offense off of the field. It would also in theory wear down the Bruins defense.
Force Denker to throw
B.J. Denker isn't a great quarterback. He possesses a below-average arm, and he isn't overly big. He's completing passes at a 58.1 percent clip on the season.
What he does bring is mobility, guts and guile. He's a tough player that won't be afraid to take a hit in the open field. He's much more comfortable throwing the ball rolling out on the run as opposed to staying in the pocket and firing shots downfield.
UCLA has to keep its integrity and containment out on the edge. Its defense cannot crash down and expose alleys that Denker can exploit with his legs. His effectiveness as a passer goes up greatly on the run.
If the Bruins can force Denker to beat them with his arm, they have a good shot at winning the contest.
Players to Watch for Arizona
As a true freshman, Phillip "Scooby" Wright leads the Wildcats in tackles (60) and tackles-for-loss (7.5).
He's quick off of the edge and virtually has the license to roam around and make plays. He's also very instinctual for a young player, evidenced by his gaudy statistics. He will be instrumental in stopping UCLA's zone-read rushing scheme. He'll have to keep containment and read his keys in order to not get duped out by the handoffs between Hundley and the tailbacks.
Was there any question that Carey would be on this list?
The tailback out of Oro Valley, Ariz., is the second-leading rusher in the Pac-12 (behind Bishop Sankey) and the eighth-best runner in the nation. Carey is averaging over 153 yards per game and has 10 rushing touchdowns on the season. He's also a threat to catch balls out of the backfield, as he's snagged 18 passes on the season for 131 yards.
Carey is the heartbeat of Arizona's offense. As Carey goes, the Wildcats go. He's by far the most important player on Arizona's team.
Players to Watch for UCLA
Damien Thigpen/Paul Perkins
The duo will have to manage the running back position against the Wildcats. Both Steven Manfro and leading rusher Jordon James are ruled out for the contest.
Perkins, an Arizona native, will get the call as the starter. It will be fascinating to see how he performs back in his home state, likely in front of a big contingent of family and friends.
Thigpen seems finally healthy for the first time this season. When fit, he's by far the most explosive back on the roster. His role should increase not only for this game but as the season progresses. UCLA needs to have balance with its offense. The rush attack has not been overly impressive dating back to the game against Utah.
With a productive run game, it will help to open up things for Hundley throwing the football.
UCLA's all-everything outside 'backer is a nightmare to block. Not only is he equipped with elite athleticism and length, but he's got a motor to go along with his impressive physical gifts.
Arizona tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele have the unenviable task of blocking the All-American. If Barr plays up to his capability, Arizona's offense could have some major problems.
What They Are Saying
UCLA head coach Jim Mora on Arizona's defense: "They take a lot of pride in the way that they play defense. They fly around, they swarm, they hit, they tackle. It will be a great game and we look forward to it."
Arizona defensive back Jourdon Grandon on atoning for last year's embarrassing loss: "We have a bone to pick with [the Bruins]."
Mora on Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey: "Oh, he's a great one. He's an excellent football player. He was great last year and he is better this year and will be great on the next level."
Ka'Deem Carey on the game: "This is a statement game. We're trying to make that championship, [and] this is the game that stands in front."
UCLA 31, Arizona 28
Tucson has been an absolute nightmare place for UCLA to play in recent years. UCLA has not won at Arizona since 2003. For whatever reason, the vaunted ZonaZoo student section bothers the Bruins' football team immensely.
Either that, or the students have concocted some sort of voodoo curse against UCLA.
UCLA's defense will win the team this game. By forcing Denker to stay in the pocket, the Bruins will attempt to have Denker and not Carey beat them. Additionally, Hundley will build upon the solid performance last week and will play well in his home state in front of family and friends.
Ultimately the Bruins will exorcise the demons and come out with the close victory.