UCLA Preview

First year head coach Rick Neuheisel makes his return to Tempe on Friday for the first time since being tabbed to lead his alma mater. Neuheisel grew up in Tempe before heading to UCLA, where he led the Bruins to a 1984 Rose Bowl championship in his senior season. The stakes are high for this week's matchup between the Bruins and Sun Devils as the winner remains alive in the Pac-10 bowl picture.

UCLA BRUINS

2008 Record: 4-6, 3-4 Pac-10
Head Coach: Rick Neuheisel

Last Week: The Bruins had a bye week following a 27-7 win at Washington.

OFFENSE
*Projected Starters

WR Taylor Embree, FR
LT Jeff Baca, FR
LG Scott Glicksberg, SR
C Micah Reed, SR
RG Nick Ekbatani, JR
RT Mike Harris, FR
TE Ryan Moya, JR
QB Kevin Craft, JR
FB Chane Moline, JR
TB Kahlil Bell, SR
WR Terrence Austin, JR

Injuries have plagued the UCLA, particularly at quarterback, as the losses of Patrick Cowan and Ben Olson have downgraded the offense. Kevin Craft, a junior college transfer, was thrust into the starting role in the season-opener and so began the roller coaster ride for the Bruins. Craft's brightest moments came in comeback wins over Tennessee and Stanford this season but the junior has struggled a great deal with consistency. Craft has passed for 2,048 yards and has completed 56.3% of his passes. He's tossed seven touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 10 games. Freshman Chris Forcier is the primary back-up.

The running game has had to shoulder more of the offensive load this season as a result of struggles in the passing game. Despite having missed a couple of games, Kahlil Bell has paced the Bruins with 334 yards and seven scores. The senior is coming off of his best game of the season, in which he rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Washington. Bell will share carries with freshman Derrick Coleman, who has netted 242 yards and a pair of touchdowns in eight games. Coleman averages 4.9 yards per carry, which is tops among his teammates in the backfield. Fullback Chane Moline is likely to carry the rock a couple of times a game and is third on the team with 118 yards.

Craft has spread the ball around this season as 17 different Bruins have caught at least one pass. Terrence Austin, an athletic and multi-dimensional player, leads the team in receptions with 41 catches. Austin is averaging just under 40 receiving yards per game. Tight end Ryan Moya isn't far behind with 37 catches and three touchdowns. Freshman Taylor Embree and Dominique Johnson, a sophomore, have emerged as solid options. The two have combined for 66 receptions and one touchdown.

DEFENSE
*Projected Starters

DE Datone Jones, FR
DT Brian Price, SO
DT Brigham Harwell, SR
DE Korey Bosworth, JR
SLB John Hale, SR
MLB Steve Sloan, FR
WLB Reggie Carter, JR
SS Bret Lockett, SR
FS Rahim Moore, FR
CB Michael Norris, SR
CB Alterraun Verner, JR

Tackles Brigham Harwell and Brian Price anchor a solid defensive front for DeWayne Walker's defense. Harwell leads all linemen with 48 tackles and should be up for All-Conference awards this season. 12 of Brian Price's 29 tackles have been for a loss. Korey Bosworth has been a pleasant surprise at defensive end after making the transition from linebacker. Bosworth has a team-leading 5.5 sacks. Datone Jones and Reggie Stokes have notched 14 tackles a piece opposite Bosworth.

Reggie Carter leads the defense with 72 total tackles at the weak-side linebacker position. The junior is tied atop the Pac-10 in forced fumbles with three. Freshman Steve Sloan has started seven games for the Bruins this fall in the middle. Sloan has added 20 tackles. John Hale, who has collected 30 stops, will start on the strong-side. Redshirt freshman Akeem Ayers is an accomplished reserve with three starts under his belt. Ayers has compiled 33 tackles and 4 sacks.

Junior cornerback Alterraun Verner has been a staple in the Bruin secondary since arriving in Westwood as a freshman. Verner, who brings in a team-best 19 straight starts, is second on the team in tackles with 62, including a team-best 44 solo stops. Verner has also collected 13 pass break-ups20and two interceptions. Senior Michael Norris joins Verner at the other cornerback spot. Safeties Rahim Moore and Bret Lockett have also been instrumental in the Bruins very effective pass defense, which ranks 8th in the nation by allowing only 164 yards per game. Lockett has totaled 58 tackles and two pass break-ups while Moore leads the team in interceptions with three.

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK Kai Forbath, SO
P Aaron Perez, SR

KOR Terrence Austin, JR
PR Terrence Austin, JR

A pair of solid specialists lead the way for the Bruins. Kicker Kai Forbath has connected on 16 of 19 field goal attempts, including 10 straight. Forbath is 4 of 5 on attempts of 40+ yards this season. Senior punter Aaron Perez is 8th in the NCAA and 1st in the Pac-10 with a 44.5 yard average. 18 of his 62 punts have been placed inside the 20-yard line while his longest punt of the season was a 67-yarder.

Wide receiver Terrence Austin is the primary return man for the Bruins and is a player ASU must account for when covering both punts and kickoffs. Austin is averaging 10.5 yards on punt returns, which ranks 3rd in the Pac-10. The junior has also compiled 935 yards on 38 kickoff returns. His longest return of the season was an 82-yard kick return.

KEYS TO VICTORY FOR ARIZONA STATE

1. Get In Synch: ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter and his receivers haven't appeared to be on the same page in each of the last two games, particularly in the first half. The timing has been a bit off as well as some untimely drops. The Sun Devils have also appeared somewhat rusty when coming off of a bye week. ASU will struggle to move the ball against this UCLA defense if they don't clean up the miscues.

2. Special Teams Coverage: Don't allow Terrence Austin and the Bruins pick up easy yards on punt and/or kickoff returns to set up scores. Instead, put the pressure back on the inconsistent UCLA offense to move the ball.

3. Defend the Run: UCLA running back Khalil Bell is coming off of his best game of the season and is reportedly close to 100%. Bell is the closest thing to consistency the Bruin offense has right now so ASU will aim to stop the run and force Craft to make plays.

KEYS TO VICTORY FOR UCLA

1. Turnovers, Turnovers: The Bruins are 26-2 over the past five seasons when they win the turnover battle. Their record drops to 13-32 when they tie or lose the turnover battle. It all starts with quarterback Kevin Craft and untimely interceptions he's thrown. Eliminate these and the Bruins should have a shot at winning.

2. Effective Passing Game: ASU will look to stop the run game first and force Craft to move the chains. That means Craft not only must take care of the ball better but he must make a p lay or two. Will that include taking more shots downfield? Craft and Neuheisel insisted on the deep ball still being in the playbook earlier this week.

3. Pass Protection: Similar to their Arizona State counterparts, the UCLA offensive line has had its share of struggles this season. The Bruins are 9th in the Pac-10 in sacks allowed, giving up an average of three per game. This figures to be a matchup to watch as ASU defensive end Dexter Davis is a pass-rushing specialist.

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