Cougar opponent has balance on their side

DON'T LOOK NOW but it's UCLA, not USC, in the driver's seat for the Pac-12 South title. The Bruins, traveling to a possibly snowy Pullman this weekend, have put themselves in position with a three-game winning streak, capped by an emphatic 66-10 beatdown of Arizona last Saturday. Win out, and UCLA plays the Pac-12 North winner for the league title. Washington State can muck it all up with a win.

Of the four Pac-12 schools with new coaches, UCLA's Jim Mora is having the most success.

Through nine games, the Bruins have had only one truly bad performance, and even in their 43-17 loss to California, the game didn't get away from them until the fourth quarter.

UCLA comes into Pullman on a roll, having rallied to win at Arizona State 45-43, followed by a sensational 611-yard performance in crushing Arizona.

UCLA's offense has good balance, as its running and passing game each rank among the nation's top 30 in yardage. The Bruins defense is good enough, as it is fair against the run, is among the country's leaders in sacks and has a positive turnover margin.

The offensive leaders are running back Johnathan Franklin, who ranks second in the Pac-12 with 1,204 rushing yards, and freshman quarterback Brett Hundley, who has thrown for nearly 2,500 yards and 21 touchdowns this season.

In case you think UCLA is one of those home-cooked teams, the Bruins are 3-1 in road games this season. Although this will be the first time they'll play in less than ideal weather conditions, at least from a temperature standpoint. The temperature at kickoff is expected to be in the low 20s.

The kickoff: UCLA (7-2, 4-2) at Washington State (2-7, 0-6), 7:30 p.m. at Martin Stadium, Pullman. Game televised by ESPN2. The betting line is UCLA by 14.5.

Last year: Probably the most heartbreaking loss of WSU's season, as Shaquelle Evans caught a 7-yard touchdown pass with 3:26 remaining to lift the Bruins to a 28-25 win in the Rose Bowl. The Cougars led 22-14 early in the fourth quarter, but couldn't hold off UCLA's late charge. Marshall Lobbestael passed for 235 yards and two touchdowns in defeat.

The series: UCLA has won four consecutive games against Washington State, and its last win in Pullman came in 2009. Prior to their recent slide, however, the Cougars had won six of seven games against the Bruins. Washington State's two biggest wins over UCLA came in 1988, a 34-30 victory over the then-No. 1-ranked Bruins, and 2002, a 49-27 win in Pasadena that clinched a Rose Bowl berth for the Cougars. UCLA leads the overall series 39-18-1.

Familiar faces: UCLA doesn't have a player from Washington on its roster. The Cougars' connection to the Bruins coaching staff is running backs coach Steve Broussard, a former running back standout, and later an assistant coach at WSU.

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel

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