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Washington Huskies vs. UCLA Bruins: Complete Game Preview

Jason FrayCorrespondent IJanuary 9, 2017

Washington Huskies vs. UCLA Bruins: Complete Game Preview

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    Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

    The No. 13 UCLA Bruins (7-2) will host the Washington Huskies (6-3) in what should be a very entertaining game on Friday night. 

    Washington is coming off of a 59-7 trouncing of Colorado. Head coach Steve Sarkisian's offense was firing on all cylinders, accruing 628 yards of total offense. 

    UCLA had a hard-fought 31-26 victory over the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson. True freshman linebacker Myles Jack rushed for 120 yards on six carries. Yes, Jack is a linebacker playing on offense. 

    This Friday night affair will be a "blackout" at the Rose Bowl. UCLA will also be wearing its "LA Midnight" uniforms. Quarterback Brett Hundley wants all of the Bruins fans to come out and rock black UCLA gear for the contest. 

     

    Here's everything you need to know for the tilt between the Bruins and the Huskies:

    Date: Friday, Nov. 15

    Time: 6:00 p.m. PT

    Place: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

    TV: ESPN 2

    Radio: XM Sirius Radio

    Line: UCLA -2.5 (per VegasInsider.com)

Washington Keys to Victory

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    Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

    Forcing Turnovers

    Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and his defense would love to create some early turnovers in order to galvanize the offense. 

    I'd expect Washington to take a page out of Stanford's and Oregon's book from the standpoint of pressuring Hundley and his young offensive line. His effectiveness as a passer gets severely reduced when being blitzed. 

    UCLA is starting three true freshmen on its offensive line. Expect the Huskies to try and force Hundley into some uncomfortable situations. 

     

    Play Mistake-Free Football

    There's never been a mistake-free football game ever played. However, a team can minimize mistakes and not shoot itself in the proverbial foot. 

    The "blackout" crowd should energize UCLA as a whole. The element of the "LA Midnight" uniforms should also add excitement to the affair from the Bruins' perspective.

    As the road team, Washington needs to avoid the self-inflicted wounds. If the Huskies turn the ball over and commit foolish penalties, the game could snowball out of control in favor of the Bruins. 

    Remember, Washington isn't a great road team. There haven't been a lot of signature road wins during Sarkisian's tenure. The Huskies also haven't beaten the Bruins in the Rose Bowl since 1995. 

    That dubious streak will continue if Washington plays a sloppy, turnover-filled game. 

UCLA Keys to Victory

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    Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

    Protect Hundley

    UCLA has to give its signal-caller time to throw the ball down the field. Against Oregon and Stanford, Hundley was constantly under siege by heavy pressure. It forced poor decisions, which ultimately resulted in turnovers and a lack of success offensively. 

    Defensive ends Hau'oli Kikaha and Cory Littleton are pure speed rushers off of the edge. While not overly big, both possess quickness that could pose some problems. Kikaha and Littleton lead the Huskies defense in sacks, with 6.0 and 3.5, respectively.

    If Hundley has time to go through his progressions, he should have success distributing the ball. If not, the UCLA offense could sputter. 

     

    Tackling Well

    The axiom of tackling well should be a no-brainer for any football team. When playing against Washington, it's especially true. 

    The majority of Washington's receivers are smaller, quick types with the ability to be lethal in space. Los Angeles natives Marvin Hall, Jaydon Mickens, John Ross and Kevin Smith are all very fast. Mickens leads the team this season with 50 catches. 

    Sarkisian likes to get his athletes in space on the perimeter. A staple of UW's offense is the bubble screen. Washington will run that play multiple times a game in order to get mismatches out on the edge. UCLA's cornerbacks and linebackers will have to tackle well. A missed tackle could turn a five-yard completion into a 50-yard touchdown. 

    The same holds true when defending against running back Bishop Sankey. Washington's bell-cow back is shifty when running between the tackles. It's imperative that the Bruins tackle the nation's third-leading rusher with consistency. 

Players to Watch for Washington

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Bishop Sankey

    Sankey is the heartbeat of Washington's offense. When he rushes the ball effectively, it opens up the passing game for quarterback Keith Price. 

    Sankey averages 145 yards per game on the ground. Those numbers make him the third-leading rusher in the entire nation. He also has value catching the ball out of the backfield, as evidenced by his 20 receptions for 225 yards this season

     

    Shaq Thompson

    The former 5-star prospect (per Scout.com) made the transition from safety to outside linebacker early in his college career. There's no doubt that Thompson is an elite talent. Although possessing the physicality of an outside linebacker, he's also equipped with the speed of a safety. 

    He's adept at running sideline to sideline in his pursuit of ball carriers and receivers. Against UCLA, it could be a case where Thompson is spying Hundley. In the event that UCLA's signal-caller takes off and runs, Thompson will likely be in the vicinity. 

     

Players to Watch for UCLA

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    Anthony Barr

    Against Arizona last week, Barr was not the Anthony Barr that everyone's been accustomed to seeing. He did not register a single tackle against the Wildcats. It has to be noted that he was constantly held by Arizona's offensive tackle Mickey Baucus. 

    I'd think that Barr will want to atone for his stat-less game last week. 

     

    Myles Jack

    Unless you reside under a rock, you were privy to the exploits of Myles Jack this past Saturday. 

    UCLA's true freshman linebacker led the team with 120 yards rushing on six carries. His 66-yard touchdown (shown above) displayed what an incredible athlete he truly is. As a defensive player, he was named the Pac-12 offensive player of the week. 

    Defensively, Jack had eight tackles, broke up two passes and recovered a fumble in the end zone. It's startling to think that he's only an 18-year-old freshman. 

    One would think that Jack will see time in the backfield again on Friday. He's far too talented not to be utilized as a running back. 

What They Are Saying

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    Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson on UCLA's quarterback Brett Hundley: "We have to keep [Hundley] in the pocket and not let him run with his feet. That's what we're emphasizing this week."

    UCLA defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes on Washington's offense: "I think they have the most electric players we've faced this season. I think more so than Oregon."

    Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox on Hundley: "He's got a very strong arm, [UCLA's offense is] a really good scheme with really good players. He's a very strong guy that breaks tackles, and he can run."

    UCLA head coach Jim Mora on UW running back Bishop Sankey: "Sankey is a glider and tough to tackle. He's a really good football player."

Final Prediction

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    UCLA 38, Washington 28

    I anticipate this being a highly competitive game. Both teams are similar in talent and makeup. Defensively, each unit possesses speed and quickness. UCLA and Washington also have talented signal-callers. 

    There are also a plethora of subplots that add intrigue to this matchup. The majority of Washington's roster hails from the state of California, specifically the Southern California area. Those players will surely want to perform well in front of friends and family.  

    This is also a massive game for Sarkisian. He very well could be on the proverbial hot seat in Seattle, and a win against a quality UCLA team on the road would help to quiet some doubters. 

    Washington traditionally doesn't play very well on the road. This season, a victory against a mediocre Illinois team (at a neutral site) is the only victory that did not take place in Seattle. It's also been 18 years since the Huskies have defeated UCLA at the Rose Bowl. 

    The Huskies have lost to three of the top teams in the conference (Arizona State, Oregon and Stanford). In those losses, the Washington defense gave up an average of 43 points. UCLA's offense resembles Arizona State and Oregon more so than the teams that Washington has defeated. 

    UCLA still has viable aspirations of winning the Pac-12 South Division. In front of an energized crowd, the Bruins will come away with a 10-point victory against their head coach's alma mater.  

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