UCLA 101: Cougs look to become poll eligible

WITH THE WIN over ASU, the Cougs became bowl eligible for the second time in the Mike Leach era -- now comes another chance for Washington State to really make a name for themselves. With another prime time game on national TV against a ranked opponent, the Cougs will try to vault themselves into polls and contention for a high tier bowl game.

Cougars (6-3) vs Bruins (7-2)
AT A GLANCE

KICKOFF:
7:45 p.m. PT

WHERE:
Rose Bowl Stadium (92,542)

TELEVISION:
ESPN

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
UCLA by 10 1-2

LAST MEETING:
UCLA won 44-36 in Pullman in 2012.

THE SERIES:
UCLA leads 40-18-1.

MATT MOORE’S PREDICTION:
Cougs 31, Bruins 30

THE BRUINS ON OFFENSE:
QB Josh Rosen: The Bruins have a future star in the freshman Rosen, but he isn't fully seasoned yet.  He throws a beautiful ball, but has still looked green at times.  Jim Mora is trying not ask too much of his young quarterback, but he may not have a choice in this game.  In 2015, Rosen has completed 61.6 percent of his throws for 2,562 yards and 18 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.

RB Paul Perkins: Perkins has run for 961 yards and ten touchdowns.  He is a solid workhorse back who has taken the pressure off his young quarterback.

Overview
UCLA runs a balanced pro-style offense.  They will hit you with power running plays, then burn you with play action passes.  Outside of Rosen, this is a veteran group that knows what they are doing.  They average nearly 200 rushing yards and 300 passing yards per game.

Strategy
The team that actually gave this offense the most trouble was ASU.  There is something to be said for sound fundamental defense against pro-style offenses, but when the quarterback is a true freshmen the key word is disruption.  The Cougar defenders need to harass Rosen and do everything they can to try and win the turnover battle.

Key Stat
345: The Bruins have 345 rush attempts and 345 pass attempts this season.  When they say balanced offense they mean it.

THE BRUINS ON DEFENSE:

Players to Know
LB Jayon Brown: The loss of Myles Jack left some big shoes to fill in the Bruin linebacker corps but Brown has done well, and now leads UCLA in tackles.

DE Takkarist McKinley: He’s been their best pass rushing threat from the down linemen, both WSU’s tackles will likely be tested and tasked with neutralizing McKinley off the edge.

Overview
Injuries have hit this group hard, but Jim Mora has as deep a talent pool as any program on the West Coast.  The Achilles heel for the Bruins in 2014 was their porous pass defense and it looked to be the same the first half of the season - but that may well have been their strength in recent weeks.  UCLA now rank 16th nationally in pass efficiency defense and have only given up one 300-yard passing performance.

Strategy
That 300-yard passing day came against Colorado and the Buffs nearly won the game.  UCLA's defense soundly demolished the Beavers last week, but opponents had averaged 471 yards of offense in conference play up till that point.  The durden of proof for stopping the Cougar receivers… is on the Bruins.

Key Stat
198 rushing yards per game: UCLA has put enough emphasis on improving their pass defense that their run defense is now the greater weakness.  Against the Air Raid, they will likely leave the running lanes more open still.

THE BRUINS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn will likely be a Groza Award finalist.  He hasn't missed a kick since Week One and has connected from as far as 60 yards.

FINAL THOUGHTS
- The Cougs and Bruins have played five common opponents in Pac-12 play this season: Oregon State, Arizona, California, Arizona State, and Stanford.  The average score in those games for the Bruins was 39-30.  The average score for WSU was 38-32.  Not a heck of a lot different.  If you remove the Oregon State game, which both teams thoroughly dominated, the Cougs actually score better than the Bruins.  The Cougs also pushed Stanford to the brink and beat ASU – both teams that soundly beat UCLA.  Yet the line in Vegas still pegs the Bruins as double-digit favorites.

-For what it's worth, the Cougs continue to have the last laugh.  They have won all six games against the spread in Pac-12 play -- each time by over a touchdown!  That simply does not happen.  No team consistently exceeds Vegas expectations by that much for that long without getting corrected. 


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