It doesn’t get any easier from here on out. UCLA faces a daunting schedule the rest of the season and it starts on Saturday, with a game some would call a “must-win.”
The Bruins will travel to Tempe, Arizona to face a talented and hungry Arizona State squad, who just got embarrassed by Oregon last week on national television.
Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly is coming off his worst performance of the season and I fully expect him to bounce back strong against UCLA’s weak secondary, he also can get out and run the ball so it is important for UCLA to keep him uncomfortable and in the pocket.
If Arizona State is once again without their two best pass rushers as they were for the majority of the Oregon game they will be in trouble defensively. However, if Will Sutton and Junior Onyeali are available and healthy enough to be effective it will affect what UCLA needs to do offensively, which is establish the run with Jonathan Franklin. Will Sutton is one of the best defensive linemen in the country, and prior to his injury he had 8.5 sacks, 14 TFL, 3 pass breakups and 2 forced fumbles. Just to put in perspective how effective he really is, the Ducks were able to run for 329 yards in the first half alone against a defense that allowed 187.8 rushing yards per game coming in. The latest update from ASU DC Paul Randolph is that both defensive linemen are ‘feeling well.’
It’s been a few weeks since we’ve seen that explosive UCLA offense from the beginning of the season, and I’m not sure this is the week it returns. UCLA is going to have trouble with Arizona State, they boast an explosive and physical defense and Will Sutton can be dominant. It is important for UCLA to get off to a great start if they want to have success on the road. Offensively they need to establish the run early, and Noel Mazzone must call plays catering to Brett Hundley to get him in a rhythm. Defensively the Bruins need to put pressure on Taylor Kelly and contain him in the pocket, also they must limit the big play ability of both Cameron Marshall and D.J Morgan.
I cannot reiterate enough how important Will Sutton and Junior Onyeali will be for ASU, if they are 100% I expect the Sun Devils to bounce back from the Oregon loss and defeat UCLA at home. Nonetheless if both aren’t available, I expect Jonathan Franklin and the Bruins to have a big day offensively just as we saw early in the season.
All signs point to disaster, and as UCLA fans we’ve seen this before, the Bruins just aren’t very good on the road against teams with a winning record. In fact, since 2003 UCLA only has two wins against conference opponents with a winning record. So if UCLA comes out with a win on Saturday then we should all start to believe in Jim Mora leading this program back to national prominence.