What to watch: Arizona at UCLA

November, 2, 2012
11/02/12
3:17
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- The UCLA Bruins meet the Arizona Wildcats in a key Pac-12 game Saturday night at the Rose Bowl. The 7:30 p.m. game will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks. The Bruins (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) and Wildcats (5-3, 2-3) are both still in control of their own destiny in the Pac-12 title hunt, but the loser Saturday will have an uphill climb. Here are five things to watch:

1. Great Scott: If the Bruins are going to have much of a chance in this game, they will have to find a way to slow Arizona quarterback Matt Scott and the frenetic Wildcats offense. Scott is No. 3 in the nation with 2,724 yards passing and his 20 touchdown passes are among the top 10 in the nation. He's adept at getting rid of the ball quickly and is also an elusive runner with 365 yards rushing this season. Last week against USC, Scott had 100 yards rushing. He' s passed for 13 touchdowns in the last four games. UCLA is No. 91 in the nation in pass defense and has struggled against top-tier passers with top-flight receivers. Scott and Arizona receivers Austin Hill and Dan Buckner (combined 105 receptions for 1,493 yards) fit the bill.

2. Run for the records: It's almost a given that Johnathan Franklin will break Gaston Green's school record for career rushing yards. Franklin has 3,711 for his career and needs only 21 more to pass Green's record, which has stood since 1987. Franklin also has the single-season rushing record in his sights. He's has 1,042 yards this season, becoming only the eighth UCLA running back with multiple 1,000-yard seasons, and needs 530 more to pass Karim Abdul-Jabbar's record of 1,571 set in 1995. Franklin would have to average 105.8 yards per game to break that and he's averaging 130.25 now. Also worth tracking is quarterback Brett Hundley, who is sneaking up on the school single-season passing record of 3,470 yards set by Cade McNown in 1998. Hundley has 2,190 yards and would have to average 256.2 over the last five games to pass McNown.

3. Home cooking: UCLA returns to the Rose Bowl for the first time since Oct. 13 and the Bruins have a new alternate uniform for the homecoming game. The Bruins will wear dark blue jerseys and pants called "L.A. Night" with helmets that match. They also have gloves imprinted with the Los Angeles skyline. Mora said the team is excited to wear them, but he made sure they wouldn't be a distraction by having them wear the helmets and cleats during practice Thursday and he had everyone try on the complete uniform. He said all-white uniforms were a distraction last year when UCLA wore them in a 50-0 loss to USC because game day was the first time the team put them on. "It’s exciting for them, it is," Mora said. "But we want to put the excitement away before we get to the Rose Bowl on Saturday night." Arizona is 0-2 on the road this season and hasn't won a game outside the state of Arizona since a 29-21 victory over the Bruins on Oct. 30, 2010.

4. Temper the tempo: Both of these teams like to play fast and keep opposing defenses off guard, so the defense that can best keep pace will probably win the game. Arizona and UCLA are No. 1 and 3 in the Pac-12 in total offense, averaging 553.6 and 502.9 yards per game, respectively. Arizona is running an average of 88.5 plays per game, which is six more per game than noted high tempo practitioners Oregon. UCLA's 80.25 plays per game seems mild by comparison, but the Bruins have topped 90 plays twice this season. Both teams have defenses that can be exploited. Arizona is No. 117 in the nation in pass defense and 110 in total defense. UCLA is No. 76 in total defense and struggled against high-tempo Arizona State last week, when the Sun Devils got off 94 snaps, had 535 yards and scored 43 points.

5. Revenge factor: The coaching staffs for both teams have changed and it's more than a year later, but many of UCLA's players will have a difficult time forgetting the embarrassing 48-12 beatdown the Bruins took on national television last year at Arizona. The Wildcats took a 42-7 halftime lead in a game that was marred by a bench-clearing brawl right before halftime and resulted in the suspensions of 10 players. UCLA entered that game in the thick of the Pac-12 title race and Arizona had just fired coach Mike Stoops after losing its previous five games. The loss in that Thursday night ESPN game is one of the stains of recent past the UCLA program is trying to erase and it set the wheels in motion for firing coach Rick Neuheisel. A victory in this important game would not only keep UCLA in control of this year's Pac-12 title race, but would also help the Bruins remove one more skeleton from their closet of mediocrity.

Peter Yoon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
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2014 TEAM LEADERS

PASSINGATTCOMPYDSTD
B. Hundley368259301921
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
P. Perkins23013786.07
B. Hundley1485483.78
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
J. Payton6389614.27
D. Fuller574287.51
TEAMRUSHPASSTOTAL
Offense199.4268.5467.9
TEAMPFPAMARGIN
Scoring32.927.55.4