UCLA 101: Trouble 'Bruin?

UCLA 101: Trouble 'Bruin?

UCLA HAS emerged from hibernation under Jim Mora. Coming off a 66-10 rout of Arizona, the No. 17 Bruins' confidence is at an all-time high. Having rediscovered their offense and their pass rush, UCLA has claimed the top spot in the Southern Division and is looking ahead to their showdown with USC next Saturday. But…

...but fortunes can be fickle. Conference road games that are not taken seriously are disasters waiting to happen. Just ask the Cougs.

And this is the same UCLA team that got blown out at Cal 43-17 just a month ago.

Prior to last week's demolition of Utah, the Bruins' wins over Utah and ASU came by seven and two points, respectively.

Cougars (2-7) vs Bruins (7-2)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
7:30 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
Martin Stadium (33,522)

TELEVISION:
ESPN2

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
-14.5 UCLA

LAST MEETING:
2011, WSU lost 28-25.

THE SERIES:
WSU is 18-39-1 in the series.

CF.C PREDICTION:
Bruins 33, Cougs 20

THE BRUINS ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
Brett Hundley, QB: The freshman has lived up to his billing. He's carried the offense consistently week to week; accounting for at least 250 yards of offense and two touchdowns in every game. With an outstanding size to athleticism combination, he could be a force in the conference for years to come.
Jonathan Franklin, RB: UCLA's all time rushing leader has been a model of consistency in his career but he appears to have saved his best for last. Already racking up over 1,204 rushing yards, another 231 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 2012, Franklin will likely be a finalist for the Doak Walker award.

Overview
The Bruins can beat you on the ground or in the air, ranking 28th in passing and 17th in rushing. OC Noel Mazzone runs the same aggressive spread he operated for years under Dennis Erickson. The idea is the spread the defense out and open up the lanes for Franklin. Teams that overextend to try to put the game in the freshman quarterback's hands have been disappointed in the results.

Strategy
This is the most complete offense WSU has faced since Oregon. The only thing to do against UCLA is to play sound aggressive defense. Prior to last week WSU had shown the potential to do exactly that. Can WSU recapture that?

Key Statistic
Franklin's 6.7 yard per rush attempt: Franklin has been held back by an anemic passing game for most of his career. The emergence of Hundley has allowed him to show how good he really can be.

THE BRUINS ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
Anthony Barr, OLB: The Bruins generate pressure from all across the line of scrimmage. The outside linebackers are particularly skilled at blitzing. Barr leads the pack with 8.5 sacks and 14 TFLs on the year.
Datone Jones, DE: One of the top defensive line prospects in next falls NFL draft. Has remarkable burst for a 280 pounder and should continue to cause WSU's guards to struggle.

Overview
The Bruins' switch to a 3-4 defense has paid instant benefits in their pass rush. UCLA has leaped from 112th in sacks last year to 6th nationally this year. They make a ton of plays behind the line of scrimmage and opposing quarterbacks generally have very little time to throw.

Strategy
Receiver is WSU's deepest position and the most difficult to carry a team with. The loss of Marquess Wilson is significant but not fatal. The potential remains for a solid offensive day if everybody looks to themselves to become the new impact player. UCLA ranks just behind Stanford in pass rushing ability, but the other aspects of their defense are pretty average. But it all becomes moot if WSU can't block anyone up front -- WSU's offensive line will need an inspired day.

Key Statistic
-- 3.5 sacks per game: The Bruins' potent offense has generally given the defense a lead to play with. They are quick to tee off on the quarterback, especially when they know the pass is coming.

THE BRUINS ON SPECIAL TEAMS

The Bruins are sound in most aspects of special teams but kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn has missed all four field goal attempts beyond 35 yards this season.

FINAL THOUGHTS
-It may seem like ages ago, but WSU really had UCLA's number prior to the Paul Wulff era, winning nine of the final eleven meetings under Doba and Price. Coach Leach might be well served to show the Cougs some old game film as a morale booster. Some of WSU's greatest upsets came over the sons of Westwood.

-The Cougars are UCLA's final road game of 2012. With USC losing to Oregon last week, the Bruins holds a one game lead over the Trojans in the Pac-12 South race. It will all come down to their showdown in the Rose Bowl next weekend. It is likely already on their minds.

-Last week's outcomes could not have surprised their fan bases more – but in very different ways. UCLA had really struggled in the previous three games. The blowout of upstart Arizona kind of came out of nowhere. WSU on the other hand saw a month of pretty steady improvement seemingly disappear.

-With the dads in town this weekend at WSU, will the Cougar players show more fight than they did at Utah?

-Washington State has generally moved the ball on their first offensive series but then stalled and come out with no points to show for it. The Cougars almost have to find a way to correct that this week in order to gain some confidence and play a more relaxed, confident brand of football.

-According to the Weather Channel, there is a 70 percent chance UCLA will see some white stuff on the ground when they get off the bus -- Friday's forecast calls for light snow showers with a high of 32. Saturday's high is predicted to be 30 degrees, with temps in the 20s around game time. How might that affect the visitors from southern California...?

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