Photo by Steve Cheng

Game Week: UCLA vs. Arizona Full Preview

Sept. 24 -- Without Myles Jack, Fabian Moreau, and Eddie Vanderdoes, Josh Rosen will try to lead No. 9 UCLA to victory over No. 16 Arizona in Tucson...

Facts and Factors

• UCLA travels to the desert for its Pac-12 opener, taking on Arizona Saturday at 5:22 PT, with the game being televised by ABC.

• UCLA is 3-0 and ranked #9 AP/#11 Coaches Poll.

• Arizona is also 3-0, and ranked #16 in both polls.

• College GameDay, the nation's premier pre-game college football show, will be televised live from the University of Arizona on Saturday on ESPN. Arizona last hosted College GameDay in 2009 when Oregon came to town. This is one of only two games between ranked opponents on Saturday, with the other being another Pac-12 matchup in No. 13 Oregon against No. 18 Utah.

• It’s the 30th all-time meeting between the two schools on the football field, with UCLA holding the edge, 22-15-2. Arizona owns an 11-9 advantage in games played in Arizona, winning four the last five in Tucson. UCLA did, though, win the last time the two met in Tucson in 2013, 31-26.

• Last year in the Rose Bowl, the Bruins beat the Wildcats in an unexpected defensive struggle, winning 17-7.

• UCLA has won the previous four matchups in which both teams were ranked in the AP Poll (2014, 2012, 1998 and 1993).

• With the win over UNLV, UCLA set a school record with its 11th-straight win in games played away from the Rose Bowl. The had won 10 straight away games in 1997-1998. UCLA hasn’t lost a road game since Oct. 26th, 2013, when it fell to the then #2-ranked Oregon Ducks.

• In his four years at UCLA, Jim Mora has started off each season 3-0. It’s the first time in history that UCLA has won its first three games in four consecutive seasons.

Photo by Steve Cheng

• Paul Perkins needs 7 rushing yards to enter the top ten list of UCLA’s all-time leading rushers. He also is now one of 20 Bruins with over 3,000 career all-purpose yards, with 3,162 career yards after the big performance over BYU.

• UCLA’s last rally from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter was in 2005 – when the Bruins did it four times, against Washington, Cal, Washington State and Stanford.

• Jake Brendel is on his way to becoming the Bruin with the most career starts. He currently has 42, and #1 on the list is Spencer Havner, the linebacker from 2002-2005, with 48.

• Arizona is the only school from the original Pac-10 to never have participated in a Rose Bowl. Last year, had the Rose Bowl not been one of the playoff bowls, Arizona would likely have ended that streak. Since the Rose Bowl was a playoff bowl, Arizona was relegated to the Fiesta Bowl. The next closest Arizona came was probably 2009, when the Wildcats lost a heartbreaking game to Oregon 44-41 in overtime that, if they'd won, would have given them a Rose Bowl bid.

• Rich Rodriquez (52) is in his fourth season at Arizona as its head man. The season he posted last year, 10-4 and winning Pac-12 South Championship, was the best season results for the Wildcats since 1998, when they had the best season ever in their history (12-1, final ranking of #4). Rodriguez’s record of 29-14 gives him the second-highest winning percentage for an Arizona coach in the last 70 years (only Jim Young, who coached from 1973 to 1976 was marginally better with a 31-13 record). Rodriguez is one of a few pioneers of the spread option offense and, depending on who you ask, either invented the zone read or was one of its earliest adopters. Rodriguez had unprecedented success at West Virginia in his first head coaching position (again, he's the second-winningest coach in the last 80 or so years there) and then parlayed that into a gig at Michigan that didn't go as well. He's since found a home at Arizona, where he has made the Wildcats one of the more dangerous offenses in the Pac-12.

• If Arizona were to win on Saturday, it would be the 150th win in Rodriguez's career as a head coach. 

• UCLA head coach Jim Mora is 3-0 against Rich Rodriguez and Arizona, and two of those victories have been of the dominant variety. The first win, in 2012, was a 66-10 blowout which saw UCLA shut down Arizona's offense completely while also scoring at will. Last year, UCLA again shut down Arizona's offense, limiting the Wildcats, which had come into the game having scored at least 26 points in every game, to just seven points en route to a 17-7 victory.

• The other win in the series, in 2013 in Tucson, was probably one of the most exciting wins for UCLA under Jim Mora. With a flailing running game, Mora and company turned to then-freshman linebacker Myles Jack to provide a spark on offense. And spark the offense Jack did, running for 120 yards on just six carries, including one astounding 66-yard touchdown. That was also the closest game of the series, with UCLA winning 31-26.

• UCLA is favored by four points.

• The weather forecast calls for highs of 95 degrees in Tucson on Saturday, and it'll probably be in the high 80s or low 90s at game time. There's some monsoon-like weather in Arizona this week, so be prepared for some humidity.

Arizona’s Offense vs. UCLA’s Defense

It’s tough to gauge Arizona’s offense at this early stage of the season because the Wildcats have basically played no one. The most credible opponent they’ve faced was Nevada, but the Wolfpack isn’t projected to be very good this year. So, while Arizona has put up some pretty incredible offensive numbers in those three games, it’s difficult to know how truly good the offense is.

We can guess, though. Rich Rodriguez is in his fourth year at the helm in Tucson, and this is the first year where he has a returning starter at quarterback. Rodriguez, aside from a weird few years in Michigan, has been universally acknowledged as a great offensive mind, and throughout all of his years at West Virginia and now at Arizona, he has been able to churn out excellent offenses year-in and year-out.

This season, not counting the game against Northern Arizona because it’s an FCS school, the Wildcats are averaging 6.2 yards per play, which is a very good number and right there with UCLA hovering around the top 25 in the country. Much of that is built on the rushing offense, which is averaging 5.7 yards per carry, which is the 15th best number in the country and, somewhat astoundingly, still 4th in the Pac-12 behind USC, UCLA, and California. We feel comfortable saying, given Rodriguez’s track record and what we’ve been able to glean from watching Arizona through three games, that the Wildcats have a good offense, and will probably get better as the year progresses.

As we said above, Arizona returns a starter at quarterback for the first time in Rodriguez’s time in Tucson — redshirt sophomore Anu Solomon (6’2, 205). Again, take the competition with a grain of salt, but Solomon has started off the year on fire, completing nearly 70% of his passes with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. It’s a great start for the young quarterback, especially when you take into account how he struggled down the stretch last year, throwing just three touchdowns in his last five games against four interceptions, while completing just 53% of his passes.

The one fundamental knock on him as a Rodriguez quarterback is that he’s not a great runner. So much of Rodriguez’s offense is predicated on the zone-read, and while Solomon can fake it well and does a pretty good job of making the correct decision in the zone-read, he just isn’t a huge threat to run for big chunks of yardage. He’s not slow, but he’s not an explosive runner, and that limits the offense a little bit. He has a good arm, though, and has looked more accurate this season than he did last year, which is a positive sign.

WR Cayleb Jones (USA Today)

For those thinking UCLA is the only unlucky team in the country, take a look at the injuries Arizona has suffered at wide receiver. The Wildcats, expected to have one of the better wide receiver corps in the conference, have really been hit by the injury bug this season. Redshirt junior Trey Griffey (6’3, 195), who suffered a foot sprain just prior to the start of the season, was expected to start this season and has yet to see the field. He may be ready for Saturday’s game, and is listed as a second-string receiver. Redshirt junior Cayleb Jones (6’3, 215) is still listed as a starter at receiver, but he left the Northern Arizona game last week with an undisclosed injury. Junior slot receiver Samajie Grant (5’9, 177) is also still listed as a starter, but he, too, left Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury. His intended backup in the slot, sophomore Tyrell Johnson (5’7, 160), has yet to see the field this year after a preseason injury, and he might be the fastest player on the team. It’s to the point now where Arizona had to use redshirt senior backup quarterback Jerrard Randall (6’1, 185) at receiver last week against Northern Arizona. Admittedly, Randall looked good, and plenty explosive, but that’s not a good situation to be in. We know for sure that redshirt senior David Richards (6’4, 213) is healthy, and he has quietly emerged as one of the best receivers on the team, with a great combination of size, speed, and hands.

If the whole group is healthy, Arizona’s receivers have the size and speed to really challenge UCLA’s depleted secondary, but the question is whether they’ll be healthy for the game. The tandem of Jones and Richards on the outsides could prove to be an exploitable matchup for the Wildcats in this game.

Much of Arizona’s offense, though, is predicated on its excellent run game. Sophomore Nick Wilson (5’10, 199) emerged last season as one of the top running backs in the Pac-12 and he has picked up right where he left off this season. He’s averaging 7 yards per carry and has averaged almost 150 yards per game through three games. He has a great combination of balance, speed, and power. He’s doubtless Arizona’s most important offensive weapon. Redshirt senior Jared Baker (5’8, 192) is his primary backup. Baker has very good speed, but hasn’t made much of an impact on the field through his four years in the program. Freshman Orlando Bradford (5’8, 202) got some spot carries against Nevada, but the running game is mostly a two-man show with Wilson and Baker.

The offensive line dealt with some considerable adversity in the offseason. First, Arizona lost three starters from last season, including both starting tackles and its starting center. Then, just before the start of the season, expected starting center Carter Wood went down with a season-ending injury, which caused some shuffling. Suddenly, expected starter at left guard, senior Cayman Bundage (6’2, 281), had to make the transition to center, which caused some dominos to fall. In his place at left guard is redshirt junior Zach Hemmila (6’3, 293), who has mostly been a special teams player in his career so far. At left tackle, redshirt junior Freddie Tagaloa (6’8, 316) is probably the best player on the offensive line. He transferred from Cal after the 2013 season and had to sit out the 2014 season. He actually got a little nicked up in the opener, but returned for the last two games and has looked good for the Wildcats. At the opposite tackle spot, redshirt senior Lene Maiava (6’5, 301) will get the nod. Maiava has made his reputation as something of a super-sub the last few years, filling in at both tackle and guard. Despite having limited starts, he’s an experienced player. At right guard, redshirt sophomore Jacob Alsadek (6’7, 298) returns as the starter. Alsadek made some Freshman All-American lists last year. He’s a big, strong guy who makes up for his lack of elite athleticism and flexibility with sheer strength.

So far this year, the offensive line, particularly the right side, has been very good at run-blocking, but pass-blocking has been a little spottier. Generally, Arizona’s offense uses quick drops, so the lack of great pass-blocking hasn’t been a huge concern, but it’ll be something to monitor as Arizona starts to play opponents with better defenses. For what it’s worth, Solomon has only taken four sacks this year after taking 38 last season.

The hits just keep on coming for UCLA’s defense. After losing starting defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes to an ACL tear earlier this season, UCLA suffered a double-blow this week, losing starting cornerback Fabian Moreau to a Lisfranc foot fracture and starting linebacker/nickelback/everything Myles Jack to a significant knee injury. Now, UCLA has some quality depth on the defensive side of the ball, but losing those three players is significant.

Jack’s injury is probably the most significant, simply because of the versatility he brings to the table. He has the ability to line up anywhere from outside linebacker to inside linebacker to safety, and seemed to be the team’s primary nickelback against BYU last week. His combination of size and speed gave UCLA a tremendous amount of flexibility on defense, and there isn’t a really obvious replacement on the roster. Jayon Brown probably gives the closest thing to Jack’s coverage ability, but he’s not the physical freak that Jack is.
Binary DataMyles Jack BYU 923.LB Myles Jack (Photo by Steve Cheng)

For the linebacker corps, it will be interesting to see which way they go. Last week, we saw Isaako Savaiinaea emerge as a legitimate player in replacing Kenny Young, who was ejected from the game for targeting. He and Young play the same position, though, so it could be difficult to have them both play at the same time. Cameron Judge could provide some of the coverage aspects that Jack provided, but he’s not quite as stout against the run. We could easily see some schematic changes with Jack out, since there isn’t a player on the team who provides all aspects of what Jack does.

With Moreau out and Jack out, we could see some shuffling in the secondary. We wouldn’t be shocked to see Randall Goforth, who has started at safety in each of the first three games, flip down to cornerback, which would allow one of Tahaan Goodman or Adarius Pickett to start at safety. It’s a very good thing for the Bruins that Ishmael Adams is going to be back this season, because he will potentially solve some of the issues at nickel with Jack out (again, Jack is so freakily versatile that he had become essentially the team’s nickelback).

The defensive line, with the loss of Eddie Vanderdoes, is probably not going to be the run-stopping force it was on track to be at the start of the season, but it’s still a very good unit, with a future pro in Kenneth Clark at nose tackle, a very good defensive end in Takkarist McKinley, and plenty of options at defensive tackle between Eli Ankou (who’s more of a run-stopper) and Matt Dickerson (who’s more of an interior pass-rusher) among others.

With the obvious shake-ups in the secondary, it will be very interesting to see what way UCLA goes. Will the Bruins opt for dropping more guys into coverage to shore up the back line, or will they opt to pressure more to keep quarterbacks from having the time to pick apart the secondary? This game should be a good early test.

ADVANTAGE: Even

If Jack were healthy, we’d give this matchup to the Bruins, but his injury really changes the dynamics of the defense, especially when matched up against spread offenses like Arizona’s. If we knew all of Arizona’s receivers were healthy, we’d probably give this matchup to the Wildcats. Since we don’t know that, we’ll keep it even, since there’s reason to believe that Jim Mora and company just have the number of this offense.

Last year, UCLA harassed Anu Solomon into a dreadful 18 of 48 performance, while also limited Rich Rodriguez’s vaunted rushing attack to just 80 yards on 31 carries. It was a dominant performance, and probably the best job that UCLA has done defensively in the Mora era. And the thing is, the Bruins have significantly limited Arizona each of the three times they’ve played. In 2013, UCLA won 31-26, but it was a 21-10 game at halftime. The previous year, UCLA held the Wildcats to just 10 points en route to a monumental 66-10 blowout.

The big key for UCLA is putting pressure on Solomon with no more than five. He was prone to mistakes and inaccuracy when under pressure last season, and hasn’t really dealt with significant pressure this season. The key for UCLA is being able to do it with no more than five, because Arizona’s quick passing game really requires UCLA keeping a good amount of players back in coverage. Last year, the Bruins sparingly used some corner and safety blitzes, and we wouldn’t be stunned to see one or two of those on Saturday.

Containing Nick Wilson is a big key as well. Last year, UCLA did a great job on the edge to keep Wilson from turning the corner, and we have to figure that with Deon Hollins’ improvement and McKinley’s growing comfort at defensive end, UCLA will have some success doing so again. Arizona doesn’t quite have the talent at tackle that they had last year, which should help with UCLA’s edge containment.

If Solomon is given time to throw, and Cayleb Jones and Samajie Grant are healthy, this could be an ugly game for UCLA’s secondary, so the key for UCLA is going to be taking away Solomon’s time to throw. If the Bruins can effectively pressure him with four or five, UCLA should be in good shape to take this side of the matchup.

Arizona’s Defense vs. UCLA’s Offense

Of course, the storyline for Arizona’s defense is junior linebacker Scooby Wright (6’1, 246), and his knee injury. Originally, Arizona expected Wright to be out three to four weeks after the initial injury in the opener against UTSA, but Rich Rodriguez has said this week that Wright will test the knee out in practice and could potentially play this weekend. Now, that could simply be gamesmanship, or it could be legitimate. As of now, after practicing a little this week, he’s listed as a game-time decision on Saturday.

Wright is the linchpin of that defense, and is absolutely critical to both the run defense and the pass rush. Arizona runs a 3-3-5 scheme that’s predicated in large part on Wright’s ability to make plays. The Wildcats have used him as a blitzer off the edge extensively in the past, in addition to his primary responsibilities as a run-stopper. Without him, Arizona is without its best playmaker on defense, but with him, Arizona can cause some real havoc for an offense. Last year, Wright had 15 sacks and an astounding 31 tackles for loss.

It isn’t as if Arizona is just down to its second-string middle linebacker either. The Wildcats have been annihilated at that position so far this year, with backup Cody Ippolito tearing his ACL, third-string player Haden Gregory out with an undisclosed injury, and even the present starter, redshirt freshman walk-on Tre Tyler (5’11, 205) nursing an ankle injury. Arizona has gone from having perhaps the best middle linebacker in the country to having one of the worst, and if Wright doesn’t make it back for this game, that’s going to be a very tough situation.

LB Scooby Wright (USA Today)

Arizona isn’t great on the defensive line, lacking any real playmakers on the front. All told, the defensive line has generated just two sacks against truly miserable competition so far this year, and with Wright out, that has led to some breakdowns, especially in the passing game. Against generally poor competition, Arizona’s defense is allowing 5 yards per play (41st in the country), 6.2 yards per pass attempt (43rd in the country), and 3.9 yards per rush (55th in the country). Those numbers indicate general mediocrity, and when you take into account the weakness of Arizona’s opponents, those numbers become even worse. As with most things defensive, both good and bad, the issues start up front.

Arizona doesn’t have a great deal of a size up front. The starting nose tackle is junior Sani Fuimaono (6’1, 288), who came back last season after serving his LDS mission. He played in nine games last season and starter four at nose tackle. He’s mostly a space-eater in the middle, but at 288 pounds, he’s not the ideal size for a space-eater (you’d typically like a nose tackle in a three-man front to be well over 300 pounds). Redshirt senior defensive end Reggie Gilbert (6’4, 262) has had a slow start to the year, recording just eight tackles and one tackle for a loss after having 49 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and three sacks a season ago. On the other side of Fuimaono, redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Luca Bruno (6’4, 264) sat out last week’s game after suffering a concussion. If he’s unable to go, senior defensive end Jeff Worthy (6’2, 287) or junior defensive tackle Anthony Fotu (6’2, 274) could get the start in his place, depending on what sort of defensive look Arizona wants to give. Strongside linebacker Derrick Turituri (6’1, 265), who is also a little banged up, will more often than not play very close to the line of scrimmage as well. He hasn’t been much of a force as a pass rusher this year, but he’s been OK against the run.

The rest of the linebacker corps, as we said above, is still a little uncertain. Tyler will almost certainly play some, even if Wright is back, since Wright is probably still going to be somewhat limited in his first game action. For a walk-on in his first real action the last couple of weeks, Tyler has been surprisingly OK. He’s not a great athlete, so there are some limitations to what he can do in pursuit, but he’s been a sure enough tackler and hasn’t found himself too out of position yet. Next to him, redshirt sophomore weak side linebacker DeAndre Miller (6’3, 230) is listed as questionable for this game after a wrist injury sidelined him against NAU. If he’s out, junior Jake Matthews (6’3, 221) or all-name all-star Sir Thomas Jackson (6’0, 222) could get the start in his place.

It’s never a good look for a defense when the secondary is, by and large, leading the team in tackles, but that’s the case for Arizona. The three leading tacklers on the team are all, to some degree or another, defensive backs, with redshirt junior cornerback Davonte' Neal (5’10, 173) leading the team in tackles, senior spur William Parks (6’1, 194) the second-leading tackler, and senior free safety Jamar Allah (6’1, 186) the third-leading tackler. Usually, that means that running backs are too often getting into the secondary and quarterbacks are too often getting time to throw against the defense. The secondary as a whole had some issues early against Northern Arizona last week, but tightened up and actually recorded a couple of sacks of their own toward the end of the game. Sophomore Cameron Denson (5’11, 168), who could start at cornerback over freshman Sam Morrison (5’9, 166), is something of a playmaker, and already has a sack and an interception this year.

UCLA’s offense, and knock on wood everyone, has not been hit by injuries to anywhere near the extent of the three units we’ve discussed so far. There’s reason to believe that UCLA wills start the same eleven players on offense that they started in the first game of the year, which is something that, apparently, very few college programs can say right now.

Josh Rosen looked like a true freshman last week against BYU, throwing three interceptions, including two really ugly ones, and making some other poor decisions throughout the game. BYU was definitely the toughest and trickiest defense that Rosen has had to face this year, and the hope is that the learning experience of going up against a defense like that will make Rosen better able to handle the tougher defenses remaining on the schedule.

With Rosen struggling, UCLA leaned on the offensive line and running game last week — and they delivered in a big way. Paul Perkins had a career-high in rushing yards, but Nate Starks actually came in on the last series and ran BYU into the ground en route to the go-ahead score. In total, UCLA ran for nearly 300 yards in the win, and much of it was due to the strength of the offense line, which opened up plenty of holes for the running backs to get through.
Nate Starks (Steve Cheng, BRO)

Going forward, it will be interesting to see how, or if, UCLA adjusts its offensive approach to the depleted numbers on defense. With three starters now out for the season on that side of the ball, UCLA could obviously go to more of a ball-control approach on offense, with less tempo, to keep the defense off the field more. That comes with drawbacks as well, though, as the offense appeared at its best last Saturday when it was going at a very high tempo.

One thing is clear, though. With so many players out on defense, there is greater pressure on the offense, and UCLA’s true freshman quarterback, to carry the load for the team heading into conference play.

ADVANTAGE: UCLA

There’s an argument to be made that Arizona, with all the nicks and bruises, coupled with the significant injuries, has been more depleted on defense than even UCLA. The Bruins have better depth on that side of the ball, for one thing, which makes losses inherently more manageable.

Much depends on whether Scooby Wright will be back for this game, and if he is able to play to his fullest capability. We’re going to split the difference and say he plays a little, but isn’t up to his usual capabilities. It may give Arizona a little bit more of a pass rush, but we can’t imagine Wright will play a full game after only going through a couple of light practices this week.

UCLA should be able to run the ball effectively against this Arizona front. The defensive line is not a good one, and should be a welcome matchup for UCLA’s offensive line, especially given how the offensive line held up against such a mature front last week in BYU. Arizona will have to bring considerable numbers into the box if the Wildcats intend to stop the run, and that should open up easier opportunities in the passing game than Rosen saw last week.

Arizona’s plan will likely be to stop the run and force Rosen to make decisions in the passing game. The Wildcats, though, can’t do what BYU did last week, which is drop six or seven into coverage and still provide some modicum of a run defense. Heck, even BYU didn’t do it that well, as the second half proved, and the Cougars had a significantly better defensive front. If Arizona sells out to stop the run, which is probably what they’ll need to do to stop it, they won’t be able to give Rosen the same kind of confusing looks in the passing game that BYU gave him last week.

It’s hard to envision UCLA not scoring points against this Arizona defense. It would take Rosen making considerably worse decisions than he made last week, the offensive line inexplicably playing poorly, and the running backs not finding holes. We just don’t envision those kinds of struggles in this matchup.

Special Teams

Arizona’s kicker, redshirt senior Casey Skowron (5’10, 160) isn’t a particularly good college kicker. Last year, he made 20 of 28 field goals, but missed five of his 14 attempts between 30 and 39 yards (which should be automatic range for most college kickers). He even missed two of his nine attempts under 30 yards. He has a big enough leg, with range to kick from just under 50 yards, but his accuracy is a real question mark.

The redshirt senior punter Drew Riggleman (6’2, 213) is another story. He’s one of the better punters in the Pac-12, with a 46.1 yard average per punt last season. So far this year, on eight punts, he’s downed two inside the 20 and has had just one touchback.

Neal handles punt returns, and he’s an explosive athlete with the ability to score touchdowns from that spot. He’s only returned one punt this season, but it was for 26 yards. He had one return for a touchdown last season, and averaged 11 yards per punt return on 12 returns.

Baker is the main kickoff return specialist. As we said above, he has plenty of speed, and is theoretically a threat to break a big one, but he just hasn’t done it yet in his career. He has averaged almost 26 yards per kickoff return so far this year, which is pretty good.

Ka'imi Fairbairn is quietly putting together a pretty good season so far. He’s missed just one kick this season, from over 50 yards, and has made six of seven. UCLA has managed him fairly well, with only two attempts over 40 yards so far this season. His kickoffs have been generally very good, and UCLA’s kick return coverage has been excellent once again.

Matt Mengel has had a decent couple of games after struggling some in the opener. He’s not a great punter, but UCLA’s punt return coverage is so good that he rarely has to do a whole lot.

At returner, Devin Fuller had one really nice punt return last week and a couple of decent kick returns. With Ishmael Adams working back into team action this week, it’ll be interesting to see whether he starts to take some reps on special teams going forward.

ADVANTAGE: Even

Prediction

UCLA has obviously dealt with some devastating news this week, with Jack and Moreau out for the season. It changes many things defensively for UCLA, since there isn’t one person who can replace all of what Jack brought to the table, so the Bruins will likely have to use more personnel packages than they’ve used so far this season.

Arizona has an offense with explosive potential. Without Jack in the mix to act as equal parts run-stopping linebacker and agile nickelback, it’s going to be more difficult for UCLA to defend Arizona’s slot receivers. Luckily, UCLA gets Adams back this week, but what he’s capable of in his first game action this season remains to be seen.

Of course, Arizona is dealing with injuries of its own, with much of the receiving corps hurt in some form or another, and the significant question mark that is Scooby Wright. Offensively, it’s a question whether the Wildcats have the weapons to exploit UCLA’s present issues on the back end, and on defense, it’s a question whether there’s enough talent beyond Wright for the Wildcats to stop much of anything UCLA wants to do offensively.

Arizona should be able to score against the Bruins. It’s hard to imagine UCLA, without Jack, Moreau, and Vanderdoes, being able to shut down this Wildcats’ offense to the extent they did last season. We do have a little confidence, though, that UCLA’s front-four pressure should stall out at least a couple of Arizona drives, since we’re not confident in Arizona’s offensive line.

On the flip side, UCLA’s offense should be able to run pretty consistently on Arizona’s defense. Even if Wright is back in some limited capacity, it’s just not a stout front, and UCLA’s offensive line is playing at a very high level right now. When UCLA elects to throw, though, the Bruins should be careful to spot corner and safety blitzes, since Arizona will likely look to send pressure from the secondary. In any case, UCLA should be able to score pretty consistently against Arizona’s defense.

This game will likely look like a shootout, but ultimately we think UCLA’s defense has a better chance of generating a few stops against an Arizona attack that is a little depleted at receiver than the Arizona defense has in defending against a UCLA rushing offense that is firing on all cylinders.

UCLA 41
Arizona 31

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