Jeff Vinton

Preview: UCLA Bruins 8-2 (5-2 Pac-12)

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Key Wins: Nebraska 7-3 (4-2 Big Ten), Utah 4-6 (1-5 Pac-12), Arizona 6-4 (3-4 Pac-12), Washington 6-4 (3-4 Pac-12)

Key Losses: Stanford 8-2 (6-2 Pac-12), Oregon 9-1 (6-1 Pac-12)

NFL Prospects: OLB Anthony Barr, QB Brett Hundley, OG Xavier Su’a-Filo, WR Shaq Evans, DE Cassius March, ILB Jordan Zumwalt, OLB Keenan Graham, DT Seali’i Epenesa, RB Damien Thigpen, WR Darius Bell

The Sun Devils continued their winning streak this weekend, extending it to five games after a 30-17 victory over the Oregon State Beavers.

The game started off great for the Sun Devils, as they received the ball off of the kickoff and proceeded to march down the field in nine plays that took 3:03 and was capped by a one-yard touchdown rush by Marion Grice, his 19th touchdown of the season. Taylor Kelly would throw two picks to the Beaver defense and the Sun Devils would grab one of their own before either team would revisit the scoreboard. The Sun Devils would be the team to score next, as the Sun Devils went 85 yards in 2:14 and D.J. Foster ran in from eight yards for a touchdown. ASU kicker Zane Gonzales’ extra point was blocked, and the first quarter would go on to end with the Sun Devils up 13-0.

The Beavers began the second quarter with a three-and-out and punt, and ASU would have an eleven-play drive end in a punt that OSU WR Brandin Cooks muffed and the Sun Devils recovered the fumble at the OSU 15. The Sun Devils would use four plays to score, as Marion Grice got his second one-yard TD run of the game, his 20th TD of the season. The Beavers would kick a field goal right as time expired, and the game went to halftime with the Sun Devils up 20-3.

Oregon State got the ball at the beginning of the second half and they evened up the turnover battle, as ASU safety Alden Darby intercepted OSU QB Sean Mannion. The next three drives would see two Sun Devil punts and one from the Beavers, but OSU broke through after ASU’s second punt. The Beavers used a 13-play drive to score their first touchdown of the day, a six-yard pass from Mannion to tight end Caleb Smith. The third quarter ended with a 20-10 Sun Devil lead.

ASU punted to start the fourth and Oregon State took 4:33 off the clock and kicker Trevor Romaine missed a field goal, and ASU took that resulting possession down the field to the OSU 18, and Gonzalez hit a field goal to give the Sun Devils a 23-10 lead. Mannion immediately threw another interception as Robert Nelson grabbed his second of the day, and returned it for a touchdown.

All of that resulted in a 30-17 Sun Devil victory that moved ASU up to No. 17 and has set up a de facto Pac-12 South championship game on Saturday against the No. 14 UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. The game will be kickoff at 5 p.m. MST and will be broadcast on Fox.

UCLA began this season at No. 21 with the Nevada Wolfpack taking a trip down from Reno, Nev. The Bruins walked away with a very comfortable victory 58-20.

The next week, during the Bruins’ bye, walk-on wide receiver Nick Pasquale was killed after being hit by a car while he was walking in his hometown of San Clemente, Calif.

The Bruins traveled to Lincoln, Neb., the next week to take on the No. 23 Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Cornhuskers took a 21-10 lead into halftime, but UCLA used a 28-point third quarter to take the lead for good. The Bruins went on to win 41-21, and they dedicated the game to Pasquale’s memory.

That win would push the Bruins up to No. 13, and the Bruins next played New Mexico State back home in the Rose Bowl. In a game that was never close, the Bruins defeated the Aggies 59-13.

The Bruins would have another bye before traveling to Salt Lake City to being their 2013 Pac-12 schedule by playing the Utah Utes. The Utes tested the Bruins, but Utah QB Travis Wilson threw six picks to the Bruin defense, and UCLA escaped Rice-Eccles Stadium with a 34-27 victory.

The Cal Golden Bears came next for UCLA, and the Bruins beat the Bears pretty badly, winning 37-10.

After the Cal game the Bruins had risen to No. 9, and they took that ranking up to Palo Alto, Calif., where they took on the Stanford Cardinal. The Bruins would suffer their first defeat at the hands of Stanford, 24-10.

The Bruins fell to No. 12 after the loss, but had to regroup quickly as they had a trip up to Eugene, Ore., to play the No. 3 Oregon Ducks next on the schedule. That trip also did not go well for UCLA, as they lost their second straight game, 42-14.

That loss pushed the Bruins down to No. 20, but the Bruins got a chance to regroup as they welcomed the Colorado Buffaloes to Pasadena next. The Buffaloes played their most complete game of the season, but came up short against the Bruins, 45-23.

The Bruins took a trip down to Tucson to take on the Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats seriously tested the Bruins, but could not contain freshman linebacker turned running back Myles Jack and Hundley, and the Bruins escaped Arizona Stadium with a win, 31-26.

That win moved the Bruins up to No. 13. The Bruins then welcomed the Washington Huskies to the Rose Bowl. The Bruins won another close game, 41-31 to put them at 8-2 on the year, and No. 14, where they sit today.

When the Bruins and Sun Devils face-off on Saturday, much will be on the line, first and foremost being the Pac-12 South Championship. Barring the results of both teams’ week 14 rivalry games, the winner of this game will likely end up in the Pac-12 Championship against either Stanford or Oregon. The Sun Devils will also have the chance to once again prove, like they did against Utah, that they can go on the road and win a big game in a hostile environment. Many recruiting battles could also be won, as both teams recruit heavily out of southern California.

When it comes down to the play on the field, one area will decide which team emerges victorious. Against Arizona, the Wildcats pretty much outplayed the Bruins, but could not wrap up Hundley, especially on third down. Hundley was able to escape the pocket and extend plays and that is what ultimately led to the Bruin victory. That will be key for the Sun Devils. Being able to corral Hundley, keep him in the pocket and not allowing him to extend plays on third down will be the most important thing for the Sun Devils to do. ASU leads the country in producing three-and-outs, making teams punt on 68 of 144 drives. UCLA is 32nd in the country in converting on third down, only converting 69 of the 133 third downs they have faced this season.

While Myles Jack has been an absolute stud the last two weeks, overall the Bruins’ run game has not been that great this season. UCLA has had 16 different rushers run the ball this season, and the team’s leading rusher is Hundley with 502 yards. If ASU’s defense can continue to be as stout as it has been since the Washington game, then Sun Devil fans need not be worried about the Bruins run game. But Jack has been incredible, so some worry is still there.

The Bruins also do not have a standout wide receiver. 25 different receivers have caught a pass this season, and nine of them have over 100 yards on the season. While this does mean that UCLA’s pass game has been very efficient, it also means that ASU’s defense will be able to spread their coverage out and not focus on one receiver, as they did with Brandin Cooks last week.

What worries me the most about UCLA is their defense. There are a ton of studs on UCLA’s defense, with Anthony Barr, Jack, Eddie Vanderdoes, Eric Kendricks and Jordan Zumwalt, among others. They rank 60th in the country, so there is room to attack.

When the game kicks off in Pasadena on Saturday, don’t expect much to be different from last year’s matchup between these two teams. This will be a very close game that may come down to whoever has the ball last. ASU will have to rely on their defense, contain Hundley, win the turnover battle and hope for some key scores from the offense to win.

Prediction: ASU 30, UCLA 27

About Jeff Vinton

Jeff Vinton is a sophomore journalism and mass communication major at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He was born and raised in Fort Collins, CO and graduated in 2012 from Fort Collins High School.

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