Every week before their football contests, I will state my views on what the UCLA Bruins need to do to win the game.
This Thursday night is their upcoming battle against the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson, an important Pac-12 Southern Division match up. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN at 6:00 p.m.
For Rick Neuheisel’s team to win, here’s what they must do…
1. Have a very successful night in their running game.
With Johnathan Franklin, Derrick Coleman and the offensive line leading the way, the Bruins must control the line of scrimmage and take advantage of Arizona’s weak rushing defense, which is near the bottom of the FBS. It will also control the clock and keep Wildcat quarterback Nick Foles, who’s the leading passer in the Pac-12 with an average of 375.83 yards a game, trailing only Houston’s Case Keenum nationally, off the field.
Of course it goes without saying that quarterback Kevin Prince has to play error free football, commit no turnovers (read: interceptions), and stay healthy.
2. Speaking of Foles, UCLA’s defensive line absolutely must put big pressure on him and allow that signal caller no time to throw, or else he’ll carve up the Bruin defense the same way Keenum and Stanford’s Andrew Luck have.
It’s all on Datone Jones, Donovan Carter, Cassius Marsh and company to make sure that pressure happens.
In addition to that, the linebackers and secondary needs to be quick to the ball on short passes, which Foles is likely to do, and more importantly not miss tackles, which has been a problem for UCLA all year long.
3. The Bruins must get stops on third down!
As far as defensive third down conversions, UCLA is near the bottom of the conference and is one of the worst in the country at allowing first downs, which has contributed to their losses. That unit must execute, get three-and-outs, and force Arizona to punt often.
To fail to do this will spell big trouble for the Bruins in the desert.
On the flip side, success in these three keys will equal an excellent chance of a win, which UCLA needs to go 3-1 in the Pac-12 and get that much closer to a post season bowl berth.
Can the Bruins come through like they did against Washington State in their last game?
We’ll see on Thursday night.