Game Week: ASU Facts and Factors

SEP. 22 -- It could be a game of the back-up quarterbacks, but it's another in a budding rivalry between UCLA and ASU, and Jim Mora and Todd Graham...

UCLA travels to Tempe, Arizona, to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils Thursday, September 25th. The game kicks off at 7:00 PST, and will air on Fox Sports 1.

• It’s the Pac-12 opener for UCLA and the Pac-12 home opener for ASU.

• ASU is 3-0 and ranked 12th and 15th in the two polls, while UCLA is also 3-0 and ranked 10th and 11th.

• The Sun Devils have beaten Weber State (45-14), New Mexico (58-23) and last week in their Pac-12 opener, Colorado (38-24).

• ASU’s three opponents are a combined 3-8 so far on the season. Weber State, an FCS team, is 0-4.

• UCLA and Arizona State have faced each other 30 times, with UCLA holding an 18-11-1 lead in the series and ASU having won four of the last seven. Since UCLA and ASU have had Jim Mora and Todd Graham as their head coaches, the scoreboard is 1-1, with this week’s clash being the rubber-game of the Mora/Graham match.

• When UCLA beat ASU in 2012 it was a big win for UCLA on its course to win the Pac-12 South. When ASU beat UCLA a year ago, it clinched the Pac-12 South for the Sun Devils. UCLA won in Sun Devil Stadium and ASU won in the Rose Bowl.

• In the last two seasons, the games were decided by a total of 7 points. If you throw in the game from 2011, the last three UCLA/ASU games have been decided by a total of 8 points.

• For the second-straight season, the two programs will enter the game ranked in the top 25 (last year UCLA was ranked 11th and ASU 17th entering the game). Before 2013, that hadn’t happened since 1986, when #16-ranked ASU beat #15-ranked UCLA, 16-9. It was one of the most successful seasons in ASU history, finishing the season 10-1-1 and with a victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

• It’s the first time since 2007 ASU has started the season 3-0, and just the 17th time since World War II.

• UCLA is 5-5 against ranked teams under Mora, and 2-3 on the road. Arizona State, under Graham, is 3-5 against ranked opponents and 2-2 at home.

• ASU is 12-3 under Graham at Sun Devil Stadium.

• UCLA is 9-4 in true road games (4-2 in both ‘13 and ‘12) under Mora. Both seasons of four road wins were the most in a season since 2002.

• The 20-17 win at Texas marked the 23rd straight game the Bruins have won when the opponent has scored less than 20 points. The streak goes back to 2007, when UCLA lost to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl, 17-16.

• ASU is led by Todd Graham, who is in his third year in Tempe. Graham (49) is 21-9 at ASU, which is easily his most successful stop on his head coaching resume. Graham has clearly turned around the ASU program, in his first season in 2012 posting his first winning season since 2007, and the feeling out of Tempe is almost complete satisfaction with Graham’s job performance. Having a background as a defensive coach, he fields an aggressive, attacking defense, which has ranked among the top 50 in the nation in his first two seasons at ASU (despite being ranked 74th so far this season). He’s known for his confident and bombastic personality, last week claiming that he had the best quarterback tandem in the country and that ASU will beat UCLA.

• As publisher Hod Rabino spoke of last week, UCLA has become UCLA’s unofficial #1 out-of-state rival, since they’ve directly competed against each for the Pac-12 South Championship the last two seasons.

• The UCLA game is the beginning of a tough stretch in ASU’s season. After playing the Bruins Thursday, the Sun Devils face #18 USC on the road, #16 Stanford at home, Washington on the road, Utah at home and #8 Notre Dame at home.

• Much of the hype for the UCLA/ASU game had focused on the quarterback match-up between UCLA’s Brett Hundley and ASU’s Taylor Kelly – before two weeks ago. That match-up is now not happening, with Kelly out for about a month with the leg injury he suffered against Colorado. Hundley, as everyone knows, is a question mark, too, after hyper-extending his left elbow against Texas.

• The game could materialize into a less-glamorous but interesting match-up between the back-up quarterbacks, ASU’s Mike Bercovici and UCLA’s Jerry Neuheisel. Two weeks ago, Neuheisel, of course, led UCLA to the dramatic, storybook win over Texas, while Bercovici mopped up against Colorado.

• Interesting trivia: While in high school Neuheisel and Berkovici were on same 7-on-7 travel team.

• Both teams are coming off a bye week.

• In a complete turnaround from last season when ASU had one of the most veteran-laced teams in the nation, this year the Sun Devil roster is dominated with youth, with its two-deep featuring 26 freshmen and sophomores.

• UCLA is favored by 3.5 points.

• The weather forecast calls for a sizzling high of 103 degrees Thursday, and by game time should still be in the 90s.

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