- Peter Yoon, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The UCLA Bruins (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) head to Tempe, Arizona for a pivotal Pac-12 game against Arizona State (5-2, 3-1) on Saturday at noon. The game, which will be televised by FX, has ramifications for both teams in the Pac-12 South Division race. Here are a few things this could affect the outcome:
1. Come to pass: Arizona State leads the nation in pass defense, giving up only 130.43 yards per game through the air, but the Sun Devils have yet to face a team that passes as well as UCLA. Brett Hundley and company have a pass offense that ranks No. 25 in the nation with 288 yards passing per game. The best passing offense the Sun Devils have faced so far is Colorado, which is No. 73 in the nation with 221 yards passing per game. Hundley has passed for more than 221 in five of his seven games this season.
2. Avoid the negative: Arizona State has a menacing defensive front seven that has helped the Sun Devils lead the nation in tackles for a loss with 9.43 per game. The Sun Devils have stuffed opponents for a loss or no gain on 91 of 496 plays this season. If you include incomplete passes, that total jumps to a staggering 189 plays -- or 38.1 percent. A total of 18 different Sun Devils have a tackle for a loss, but defensive tackle Will Sutton (14) and linebacker Chris Young (12.5) are the main forces. Sutton may not play, however, because of an injury.
3. Start strong, finish stronger: A quick start and strong finish are important against any team, but will be difficult against Arizona State. The Sun Devils have outscored opponents 69-32 in the first quarter this season and 78-7 in the fourth quarter. Their first-quarter margin was 62-10 before Oregon got 22 in the opening period last week, but the Sun Devils shut out five of their seven opponents in the first quarter this season. UCLA has been good early in games, too, having outscored opponents 68-37 in the first quarter of games this season and 42-13 over the last five games.
4. A sort of homecoming: There may be some added emotion in this game for several Bruins coaches and players. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone held the same position at Arizona State the last two years and was a candidate for the head job after Dennis Erickson was fired. Running backs coach Steve Broussard was also an assistant at ASU in 2010 and 2011 while Hundley is a Phoenix-area native and will have dozens of family and friends at the game.
5. Running men: Johnathan Franklin is chasing a couple of school records and the UCLA career rushing record is within reach this week, although it’s a pretty far reach. He needs 185 yards to pass Gaston Green on the all-time list. Franklin has topped that total twice this season and the Sun Devils gave up 406 yards rushing last week against Oregon, so it’s possible. Hundley should also find room as Oregon exposed Arizona State’s vulnerability against the zone-read play. Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota had 135 yards in 10 carries last week.
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