NOTEWORTHY FACTORS:-- In case you've been living in cave, Rick Neuheisel is a former UCLA quarterback and coach. Neuheisel, has split two previous meetings against his alma mater. He lost 23-20 overtime two years ago, and posted a come-from-behind win, 35-28, last season in Seattle. But what you might not know: The UCLA football program is particularly motivated to always beat UCLA's prodigal son.
-- Washington is on a 12-game winning streak, which ties them for the third best in the country.
-- UCLA and Washington have only faced each other one other time when each were top ten-ranked teams. In 1981, Washington beat UCLA in Seattle, 10-7.
-- UCLA has converted seven-out-of-ten turnovers into points, while allowing only one score to result from the eight turnovers they've committed.
-- UCLA leads the all-time series between the two Pac-10 powerhouses, 30-28-2.
-- The Huskies are the only Pac-10 team to not give up a rushing touchdown yet this year.
Washington has gotten some considerable points from turnovers and special teams. So far this season, they scored on an interception return, a blocked field goal return, a kickoff return and a punt return. UCLA has allowed a touchdown on a blocked punt.
-- Washington is fairly unhealthy at this point in the season. Linebacker Kai Ellis is out and will undergo knee surgery; tight end Jerramy Stevens, perhaps Washington's best player, is out with a broken foot; and starting quarterback Cody Pickett will more than likely not play due to a separated shoulder. The Huskies are also generally banged up and bruised in their two deep.
-- UCLA is probably the healthiest it's been at this point in the season in the last five years. Back-up fullback Matt Stanley is out and back-up wide receiver Cody Joyce is out. Also, back-up punter, Chris Kluwe is out.
-- Three UCLA players were taken off kick-off coverage due to a lack of effort. Seventeen of kicker Nate Fikse's 23 kick-offs haven't been returned, which has led some players to possibly be coasting on kick-off coverage. Head Coach Bob Toledo would not reveal which players were taken off kick coverage, saying he didn't want to embarrass them.
WASHINGTON'S OFFENSE VS. UCLA'S DEFENSE
> In hearing what both head coaches feel are important factors in this game, it almost seemed like the two had decided that time of possession is what wins the game, not points. Both Rick Neuheisel and Bob Toledo have emphasized how they consider time of possession as a huge key to winning, particularly this game.
With Washington missing its starting quarterback and having to go with back-up Taylor Barton, that's all the more reason why you can expect Washington to make a concerted effort to establishing a running game. Veteran running back Willie Hurst has looked good this year, while sophomore Rich Alexis, who is considered the potential star, had an off-day against USC. Washington, for the season, hasn't particularly been very effective running the ball, seventh in the Pac-10 in rushing offense, averaging 142 yards a game. And it's probably due to the fact that they had to replace four starters from last year's good OL. Senior center Kyle Benn is the unit's anchor, but he's surrounded by new starters that are one junior, two sophomores and a freshman.
UCLA's defense (picture swarming above right), on the other hand, has been very effective against defending the run. Defensive tackle Ken Kocher has benefitted from the bye week and should be back to full strength, as will junior back-up DT Sean Phillips. UCLA's defensive line is loaded with talent and experience, and it should easily handle Washington's young and green offensive line.
Washington will probably recognize that the one distinct advantage it might have over UCLA is at wide receiver, where 6-4 receiver Reggie Williams (pictured at left) is on track to have a record-setting freshman year at Washington. Williams will probably match up with UCLA cornerback, 5-9 Ricky Manning, most of the time, where he has a considerable height advantage. UCLA's other corner, Matt Ware, will get the assignment of Williams during the game, but UCLA will try to protect its freshman cornerback with double-teams and blitzes. If Williams' performance this year is any indication of well he'll perform on Saturday, he looks almost unstoppable, and he is bound to get his catches and yards. UCLA's defensive backfield, though, has been the stingiest in the Pac-10 so far, so it is a battle of strengths. Barton, while he might be getting discounted as a back-up, stepped into last week's USC game with confidence and was very efficient in his passes. So, watch for Washington to try to take advantage of Williams and Barton's moxy, and try to open up their offense through the air.
UCLA has discovered that probably its most important defensive element this year, after stuffing the run, is getting hits on the quarterback. With a quarterback making his first start, you can expect UCLA to be seeing a bullseye on Barton's chest, trying to upset him by hitting him and rushing him. With two weeks off, UCLA had time to conceive some new rushing and blitzing packages intended to surprise Washington and get to Barton.
As in UCLA's previous games, the distinctively dominant unit in the matchup is UCLA's defensive line. That line, combined with middle linebacker Robert Thomas, makes UCLA look far too talented and experienced for Washington to be able to move the ball too effectively. The Huskies will get their scores, probably as a result of UCLA turnover or a special team play, but it'd be surprising if UCLA couldn't contain Washington to under 20 points.
Advantage: UCLA has the clear advantage here, with an experienced, talented healthy defense that's #1 in the Pac-10 against an inexperienced, banged-up Washington offense. If Washington wants to avoid the inevitable, Taylor Barton will have to have a freakishly good game in his first college start.
UCLA'S OFFENSE VS. WASHINGTON'S DEFENSE
Again, with Coach Toledo emphasizing time of possession, and having a Heisman Trophy candidate in his backfield in DeShaun Foster (pictured at right), I think it's safe to expect that UCLA is going to be pretty stubborn about trying to run the ball. You can probably expect the UCLA offense to be mostly grounded for a good portion of the first half. It's especially enticing to run on Washington after watching USC's embattled running game actually open holes and gain yards against the Washington defense last week. Larry Triplett is a very good DL, and Washington looked solid against the run, that is, until the USC game, so it's difficult to really conclude that Washington can easily be run on. But UCLA is definitely going to try. And Washington will probably do everything they can to stop UCLA's running game, including stacking the box and keying on Foster.
The variable here is again UCLA quarterback Cory Paus. UCLA's offense will have a clear advantage over Washington's defense if Paus can complete the basic pass. He's looked good throwing the long ball, but shaky in the 8-yard out. This week in practice Paus looked sharper than he has since last spring, and if that can translate into more effectiveness this Saturday, Washington might be up against it. Washington hasn't been too particularly ef