5 things to watch: Arizona State at UCLA

November, 4, 2011
11/04/11
6:49
AM PT

1. BALANCE THE SCALES

Last year, UCLA got into a shootout with Arizona State, but couldn't keep pace in a 55-34 loss despite getting out to a 17-0 lead. Quarterback Richard Brehaut completed 33 of 56 passes, setting school records for both attempts and completions. But UCLA's offense is not built for that type of attack, especially with Kevin Prince--a more run-oriented quarterback--behind center. The Bruins rushed a season-high 52 times for 294 yards last week, but Arizona State is more vulnerable through the air, ranking 84th in the nation in pass defense and 54th against the run, so finding some balance will be essential if the Bruins want to play tho their own strengths while also taking advantage of Arizona State's weakness.

ASUUCLA2. COVERING THE MILES

Arizona State receiver Jamal Miles is one of four Arizona State receivers with 24 or more receptions, so the UCLA defensive backfield will have its hands full dealing with the Sun Devils spread attack, but Miles creates problems at other places, too. He has 36 receptions, including a team-high five touchdowns receiving, but has also scored on a punt return and a kickoff return this season. He also threw a touchdown pass on a trick play. He's sixth in the nation with a 15.91 punt return average and had a back-breaking 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last year against UCLA that gave Arizona State a 38-27 lead.

3. THIRD DOWN IS THE CHARM

UCLA's struggles on third down defense have been well-documented, but Arizona State hasn't had that problem. The Sun Devils have allowed opponents to convert only 30 of 108 (27.78 percent) third down plays. that's ranks No. 4 in the nation and leads the Pac-12. That means keeping drives alive will prove difficult for the Bruins, who want to grind out long drives and chew up clock. The Bruins defense, which showed improvement in holding California to two of 12 third down conversions, must come up big again to keep Arizona's potent offense off the field. The Bruins are still No. 117 in the nation in third down defense at 52.07 percent.

4. HOLD ON TIGHT

Arizona State is one of the top teams in the nation when it comes to forcing turnovers with 25 for the season. That's good enough to rank No. 4 in the country and leads the Pac-12. They've forced 24 turnovers the last six games after only one the first two games. And the Sun Devils are equal-opportunity ball hawks with 13 interceptions and 12 fumbles recoveries. Ball security has been a bit of an issue with UCLA, which ranks No. 105 in the nation with 10 fumbles lost this season. Kevin Prince has not had a pass intercepted in two consecutive games, but he's never gone three straight without an interception.

5. STAY COOL

It's no secret that Arizona State like to play a physical style in an attempt to intimidate. The Sun Devils are tied for the most penalty yards in the country this season with 641 and their 80.13 penalty yards per game are the most of any team. They have 64 total penalties, which ranks as the seventh most in the nation. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is the poster boy for the nasty boys and the Bruins can't let him or other Arizona State players get in their heads and out of their games.

Peter Yoon

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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