The Wildcats return home to host UCLA in a Thursday night affair at Arizona Stadium. UA hopes to end a 10 game losing streak to FBS competition against the squad that gave the Wildcats their last victory over a team not named Northern Arizona.
The Bruins' offense ranks ninth in the Pac-12 in scoring with an average of 25.8 points per contest. They have the ability to pile up yards on the ground as evident by their 194.5 rushing yards per game average. UCLA uses the run to make up for its subpar passing game, which ranks last in the conference with an average 198.7 yards per contest.
Junior running back Johnathan Franklin is a playmaker that can make life difficult for opposing defenses. He currently ranks sixth in the Pac-12 in rushing yards with 509 and has done so with just 77 carries. Franklin has only compiled two 100-yard rushing games this season and hasn't found the end zone since week two against San Jose State. Still, the Bruins' leading rusher is a serious threat to a UA rushing defense that ranks last in the conference by giving up 196 yards on the ground per game.
The drop off behind Franklin isn't that significant either. Senior Derrick Coleman has gained 330 yards on 63 attempts and leads his squad in rushing touchdowns with six. Look for the tandem of Franklin and Coleman to be a big part of the game-plan Thursday for UCLA.
UCLA was planning on having Richard Brehaut start this contest, but he suffered a fractured leg in the Bruins' victory over Washington State. Instead, Kevin Prince will be given yet another chance to start and lead UCLA.
Prince has seen limited action over four games in which he appeared in. The junior has gone 14-for-23 while throwing for 257 yards. Prince has thrown a pair of touchdown passes but has also been picked off four times. Prince does bring an added dimension to his game with his legs, as he has gained 59 yards on just nine carries.
Despite UCLA's stagnant passing attack, the Wildcats still must pay attention to wide receiver Nelson Rosario. The senior has caught 26 passes for 480 yards, but has yet to score a touchdown. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Rosario has the size to be a threat in the red zone as well as over the middle of the field.
Tight end Joseph Fauria is the team's second leading receiver with 12 receptions and 196 yards. He is also UCLA's top target in the red zone as evident by his team-leading four touchdown receptions. He is another huge target at 6-foot-8 and 252 pounds and gives Prince someone to throw to that can create mismatch problems all over the gridiron.
Only one other player on offense – wide receiver Taylor Embree – has caught double-digit receptions with 10 receptions for 121 yards and a score.
There are several other receivers that could potentially make an impact. Shaquelle Evans has caught eight passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Josh Smith has 96 receiving yards of his own as well as a touchdown.
UCLA's offensive line has been pretty stable in 2011. The unit is helping the running game by paving the way for the Bruins to average 5.1 yards per carry, while doing an admirable job of protecting the passer by allowing only four sacks all season long.
UCLA's offense has been one-dimensional for the most part, but the area it has shown success in has been impressive. If Arizona can't find a way to stop Franklin, Coleman and the Bruins' running game, UCLA will be able to control the clock and keep UA's deadly passing attack on the sideline.
Five Keys to the game
1. Contain the run: If Franklin and Coleman have their way against what has been a poor UA rushing defense, UCLA could come away with a road victory. If the Wildcats keep them in check, it significantly reduces the Bruins' chances at a victory.
2. Pressure Prince: The UCLA signal caller has been known to make mistakes, especially under pressure. If the Wildcats can get past what has been a strong Bruins' offensive line and get to Prince, it will prevent UCLA from being able to open the field up.
3. Keep UCLA out of the red zone: In Rosario and Fauria, UCLA has two big targets to put to use in the red zone when it gets there. Keeping the Bruins away from that area makes it very difficult to score as they aren't a big-play offense.
4. Make Prince throw: The more Arizona makes UCLA pass, the harder it will be for the Bruins to win. Prince is averaging one interception about every six pass attempts, so the more he throws the more of chance he has to make mistakes.
5. Avoid long drives: UCLA's ability to run also gives it a great chance to control the clock. Arizona must limit the lengthy drives by the Bruins so the Wildcats can get their offense back on the field as quickly as possible.
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