Why Arizona State vs. UCLA Is the Game You Should Be Watching This Saturday

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Why Arizona State vs. UCLA Is the Game You Should Be Watching This Saturday
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UCLA LB/RB Myles Jack

Week 13 of the 2013 college football season features a monster slate of high-stakes matchups, with five contests among ranked teams. And while there isn't a moment you'll want to miss, catching Arizona State-UCLA (7 p.m. ET on FOX) should be a high priority.

To begin, the two teams have been on a collision course since the beginning of the season, and the fact that a lot is at stake isn't something new. The winner of this contest, in all likelihood, will be the winner of the Pac-12 South and the team that gets to represent the division in the conference championship game.

The scenarios are as follows: If Arizona State wins, the debate will be over, and the Sun Devils will automatically become champions of the South division, regardless of what occurs in their season-finale against Arizona. If UCLA wins, it'll create a three-way tie between the Bruins, Sun Devils and Trojans. Because Jim Mora's team would own the head-to-head tie-breaker over Arizona State, it would only need to beat USC to win the division.

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ASU head coach Todd Graham

A third scenario exists in which UCLA beats Arizona State but drops its final game of the season to USC. In that case, Arizona State would win the division if it beats Arizona by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker over USC. Should Arizona State also lose to the Wildcats, USC would emerge from the mess.

There's nothing quite like seeing two teams do battle with everything on the line. After suffering an early loss in the season, you'll often find optimism seeping out of locker rooms because of the number of games left on the schedule.

That won't be the case Saturday, when a loss could spell doom for either team.

But beyond the conference title implications, this game features two very good teams playing their best football of the season.

Let's start with Arizona State, where head coach Todd Graham's team is sitting at 8-2 with a 6-1 record in conference play. The two losses came at Stanford and in a neutral-site matchup with Notre Dame. The loss to the Cardinal can be excused because, well, Stanford is a darn good team. A little less forgivable is the loss to the Fighting Irish, but the Sun Devils have since responded with five straight victories, four of them in blowout fashion.

The quarterback of Arizona State's potent offense is Taylor Kelly, who's thrown for over 2,800 yards and 24 touchdowns this season. Kelly also has 312 yards on the ground to go along with another seven scores, and he's completing over 62 percent of his throws.

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Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly

In 2012, the offense was largely run-based, and between Kelly and his backfield-mates Marion Grice and D.J. Foster, the three terrorized opponents on the ground. Now with wide receiver Jaelen Strong in the picture (59 catches, 834 yards, 5 TDs), defenses are forced to account for both an experienced rushing attack and a capable passing offense.

Switching over to UCLA, you'll find a team with the same overall record at 8-2, but after starting the year 5-0, the Bruins lost two straight at Stanford and Oregon. Since then, the offense has begun to find a bit of a rhythm, with the biggest adjustment being putting linebacker Myles Jack in at running back on occasion.

The versatile Jack has five touchdowns in two games, and his combination of speed and strength makes him a matchup nightmare for any opposing defense. His emergence makes you wonder how UCLA might have fared against the Cardinal and Ducks if Jack were in the backfield. In those losses, the Bruins were held to a total of just 24 points.

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UCLA QB Brett Hundley

Brett Hundley is the quarterback of the team, and while still a bit raw, both his talent and potential are enormous. He has a huge arm and can make any throw on the field, but his size and speed also allows him to shrug off defenders and run for first downs.

In an era with a myriad of dual-threat stars, this contest has two. It also has some notable defensive standouts, like defensive tackle Will Sutton on Arizona State and linebacker Anthony Barr on UCLA. Both could be starring on Sundays in the near future.

Both squads are averaging more than 37 points per game, so there are bound to be a few fireworks.

One factor that could sway this thing is the home-field advantage for UCLA. The Bruins have yet to lose at home in 2013, and the Sun Devils are just 2-2 outside of Tempe, which includes a come-from-behind 20-19 win over Utah.

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If Stanford-Oregon was the game of the year, Arizona State-UCLA isn't far behind. And while the former matchup only produced drama late in the fourth quarter, this one is likely to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire game.

Bleacher Report's Robby Baker has your complete preview of the matchup, which breaks down some of the game's finer points and reaffirms what we've been saying: This is one you don't want to miss.

You're a college football fan, so you're well aware of the other big games taking place on Saturday, and you probably already have a schedule for making sure you don't miss any of them. But if you're looking for a game that has major implications in a conference race, has a bevy of future NFL talent and, in all likelihood, will come down to the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, don't miss out on the Sun Devils clash with the Bruins in Pasadena.

 

All stats via ESPN

 

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