Know Your Opponent: UCLA vs Arizona State


#7 UCLA hosts Arizona State this Saturday at the Rose Bowl. The game kicks off at 430pm PST on Fox. Here is your UCLA vs ASU Preview!


The Bruins enter this game with a 19-11-1 overall record against the Sun Devils dating back to 1976 when ASU was a member of the Western Athletic Conference. Coaches Jim Mora and Todd Graham joined their teams three years ago, and Mora currently holds the edge with a 2-1 record against Graham. Strangely enough, both schools have been unable to win at home under the current regime, and the Bruins will have to buck the current trend if they want to stay undefeated in 2015.

Arizona Offense

Mike Bercovici

has so far been unable to duplicate his success from last year. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Leading into the year, it was assumed by many that ASU would field a big play offense fueled by the arm of quarterback Mike Bercovici, but that hasn’t panned out so far. Instead, the Devils have missed Jaelen Strong from last year’s team, and plugging in UCLA transfer Devin Lucien and converted running back D.J. Foster have not lived up to expectations.

Compounding the problem, Arizona State is last in the Pac-12 in sacks allowed (14 total, 12 combined against Texas A&M and USC), and Bercovici hasn’t been as effective either. Berco played the majority of four games last year, and he has played four games so far this year; compare the stats:

[table id=111 /]

As you can see, Bercovici’s production has dramatically decreased from last year overall, and its decreased even more after factoring out the two tomato cans the Devils have played this year.

. . . an underachieving ASU passing game is probably still at least as potent as any opponent the Bruins have played so far this year. . .

Whether the slip in play is the lack of outside play-makers or a regression by Bercovici, its clear that the Sun Devil passing offense has taken a step back in 2015. On the bright side for Sparky fans, the Bruins are still playing musical chairs in the defensive backfield, and an underachieving ASU passing game is probably still at least as potent as any opponent the Bruins have played so far this year.

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  • The Sun Devil running game has produced very similar numbers to last year despite Foster’s move to the outside. Demario Richard is currently second in the Pac-12 in all-purpose yards per game (153.5 yards/game) and is averaging 6.3 yards per rush. Foster and Kalen Ballage have also been used in the backfield this year as well.

    The biggest concern for the Bruins last week was a weakness against the zone-read play and accounting for a free running quarterback. Unfortunately for ASU, running is not Bercovici’s strong suit (32 rushing attempts for -15 yards in 2015). The Devils will probably attempt to test the Bruins run defense in the same fashion as Arizona, but they will either have to put Bercovici in an unfamiliar position (and risk injury) or mix in some wildcat-type formations with the running backs (which is probably more likely). Either way, if the Bruins use the same approach and are as slow to react this week as they were against the Wildcats, then ASU will be able to run the ball successfully.

    Arizona Defense

    Look forward to Todd Graham madly waving his arms this Saturday at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    In many ways, Todd Graham is the antithesis of Jim Mora, and nowhere are those differences more apparent than in the two coaches defenses. The Bruin defense attempts to limit big plays and blitzes relatively sparingly.

    The Sun Devils seem to blitz on every play and usually create and give up multiple big plays per game. The top three leaders in the Pac-12 in Tackles for a Loss are all Sun Devils (Salamo Fiso with 7.5, Viliami Laiu Moeakiola and Jordan Simone have 5.5 each).

    Chaos is the key for Graham, and you can bet he will be spasmodically waving his arms on the sideline trying to break down the Bruin protections and run game.

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    ASU has been determined to stop the run, and they have been relatively successful, allowing only 3.7 yards per carry (and only 3.3 against A&M and USC). All those blitzes leave a defense vulnerable, and USC was able to take full advantage of ASU last week especially on 3rd downs.

    Paul Perkins will need to continue to break tackles and at the line of scrimmage and not get stopped for losses against the ASU stunts and blitzes, and quarterback Josh Rosen will once again have to make good, quick decisions in order to take advantage of the opportunities the ASU blitzes will inevitably create. Either that or he will get crushed.

    Bottom Line

    UCLA comes into the game surging on offense but still adjusting to injuries on defense. ASU comes into this game desperate to find some momentum and to preserve any chance of competing for the Pac-12 South. Its unlikely that ASU will make the same number of huge game turning mistakes that were made against the Trojans last week, and they will likely give the Bruins their best shot Saturday night.

    With that being said, the Bruin offensive line has dominated the competition so far this year, and the Sun Devils will have to over-commit on defense in order to stop the Bruin running game. This will leave openings on the edges and down the field for offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone to exploit.

    The Sun Devil offense may be able to produce some yards and points against the Bruins as they continue to adjust, but it doesn’t seem likely that ASU will be able to keep up with the Bruins pace.


    UCLA 31 ASU 20

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