We’re going to cut to the chase. I’m running out of paper and ink and my typewriter’s about to go out. If you want our previous previews of weeks one through six, check them out: Rice, Nebraska, Houston, Oregon State, Colorado, California and Utah.
Last season, UCLA sent ASU on a tail-spin. After the Sun Devils came up with a shocking 6-2 record last season — including a win over South Cal — they traveled to the Rose Bowl to get edged by our Bruins in one of the most exciting games UCLA fans witnessed all last season.
ASU was favored and ranked at the time. After the Sun Devils fell to 6-3 against UCLA, though? They fell off the radar and managed a horrendous 6-6 season after many had picked them to win the Pac-12 South and represent the division in the Pac-12 title game.
Now, ASU is in a similar position that UCLA is in; a new head coach in Todd Graham — a controversial hire, mind you, or at the very least a controversial exit — will have the duty of turning around a football program that has mired in mediocrity for the past decade with the occasional winning season sprinkled in.
ASU isn’t projected to do as well as they were projected to do last year, but ASU fans will see a win over UCLA as being likely. Let’s see if those prospects are correct.
ASU Offense vs. UCLA Defense
ASU’s passing game should be in good hands since Noel Mazz– oh, shit, sorry ASU fans, that’s our guy now.
In all honesty, the ASU offense will likely be very run-heavy. Brock Osweiler — a typical Mazzone QB who is incredibly tall and has a super dorky throwing motion — is a Denver Bronco these days and the QB situation is shaky at best, since there’s no clear starter just yet.
The running back situation is fine, though. Senior RB Cameron Marshall, a severely underrated running back, should be a lot better with a year of maturity and an expected increase in emphasis on the run game, something Todd Graham has championed at all of his 31,000 coaching stops. We know, we know: ASU has some serious depth at RB with Kyle Middlebrooks and Tank Morrison itching to get some reps, but Marshall is the consensus top RB here.
And this bodes well for UCLA, because again, that Bruin secondary is very-cheap-toilet-paper thin. A good passing game could eviscerate UCLA’s secondary, and thankfully, ASU does not have a good passing game.
That defensive frontline is pretty damn good, or is supposed to be, at least, if all things go according to plan. Cameron Marshall’s good, but is he good enough to get past a beefy defensive line and solid linebackers against a 3-4 defense?
ASU Defense vs. UCLA Offense
The ASU defense will be OK. Last season, they were pretty damn mediocre, ranking dead in the middle of the Pac-12 in rush defense — and UCLA will be running the ball like hell.
The defensive line needs reform and the linebacker corps is a little unstable with all the turnover the team is seeing here. Vontaze Burflict — easily the most bad-ass name in college football — is gone now as is Shelly Lyons and a few other ASU LBs.
Brandon Magee — ASU’s best linebacker, by far — is back, though.
The secondary? They’re returning a couple of decent corners, meaning it might be their biggest strength on defense.
So the obvious point of attack is that frontline, for UCLA. Johnathan Franklin should be a top-3 rusher in the Pac-12 and will have to obliterate ASU up front as we would expect.
Prediction: UCLA 33, ASU 20
UCLA has to beat ASU (a team that’s supposed to be in the ballpark of four to six wins), and though, as of this writing, UCLA is favored by 2.5 points, a blowout has to happen here to show UCLA fans that this new regime under Jim Mora is taking this program forward.
Of course, if ASU has a miraculous start this season, things could change, but we’re pretty damn sure they’re starting the season either 3-4 or 2-5.
If all things go according to “plan,” UCLA should start their season 5-3 after a win against ASU.