Coming off a 45-19 evisceration at Stanford, the UCLA Bruins need a win.
Six weeks into the regular season UCLA sits at 2-3, four wins away from the six needed for a bowl birth and the probable retention of Rick Neuheisel. Where those wins will come from is anyone's guess, but conventional wisdom says one of them should come Saturday against Washington State.
Victorious in a 31-27 comeback win over Colorado a week earlier, the Cougars enter the Rose Bowl this weekend with an offense tied for ninth best in the country. Starting quarterback Marshall Lobbestael has thrown for over 300 yards in his last three starts since replacing an injured Jeff Tuel. WSU has few equals through the air, averaging 379 passing yards per game. In four games played only Oklahoma State has done better.
Lobbestael and Co. will face an injury-riddled UCLA secondary that Andrew Luck deftly exposed at the Farm. Cornerback Sheldon Price and safety Alex Mascarenas will not play Saturday, with fellow safety Tony Dye a game-time decision.
The injuries don't stop there. Linebacker Glenn Love, defensive tackle Justin Edison and guard Chris Ward are likely not to see action this week. Edison is still recovering from a concussion while Love (hamstring) and Ward (shoulder) did not practice this week.
While the game could be decided by the absence of familiar faces, it might also be influenced by a new one. With kicker Kip Smith still out with a hip flexor injury and punter Jeff Locke inconsistent in the role, place kicks under 40 yards will be carried out by Tyler Gonzales. Gonzales, former team manager for UCLA Soccer, could very well be the difference in what looks to be a high-scoring game.
With their only wins coming over lowly San Jose State and Pac-12 doormat Oregon State, UCLA needs a win over a good team to put itself back on track. Beating Washington State would accomplish just that.
Here are four keys to a Bruin victory this weekend.