Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Five things to watch: UCLA at Arizona
By Peter Yoon
1. PRINCE OR PAUPER
Kevin Prince gets back in the saddle as UCLA's starting quarterback and will need to elevate his game. He's started two games this season and left one with a shoulder injury and was pulled from the other after throwing three first quarter interceptions. Prince, an accomplished runner, showed he can also lead the team with his arm by directing a fourth-quarter comeback in relief of Richard Brehaut against Washington State and has shown flashes of good play throughout his career, but has yet to find the consistency that instills confidence that UCLA can contend for the Pac-12 title with him at quarterback. Also worth noting is that freshman Brett Hundley will make his anticipated debut should Prince falter or get injured.
2. NEW ATTITUDE
Arizona enters the game seeking a fresh start after firing coach Mike Stoops last week. Interim coach Tim Kish, a 36-year veteran assistant at the college level who was Arizona's defensive coordinator, will make his head coaching debut. The change is likely to re-energize the team after a 1-5 start and Kish's main directive is to help the Wildcats end a five-game losing skid and a string of 10 consecutive losses against FBS opponents. The last major division win for Arizona was a 29-21 victory over UCLA last Oct. 30. The Wildcats picked a good opponents to try an cure their woes: Arizona has defeated UCLA in their last four meetings and UCLA hasn't won in Tucson since 2006.
3. NICK OF TIME
There are two main reasons to believe that Arizona isn't nearly as bad as it's 1-5 record would indicate. First, the Wildcats have played one of the most difficult schedules in the country. Second, quarterback Nick Foles. Despite playing against No. 4 Oklahoma State, No. 8 Stanford and No. 10 Oregon, Foles is second in the nation in passing with 2,255 yards and is seventh with a 71.5 completion percentage. He's a master of the quick-hitting short pass, averaging only eight yards per attempt, and that should cause concern for the Bruins because they have struggled against such attacks this season.
4. FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE
The defensive front fours of both teams have struggled this season and the game could very well be decided by which team alleviates that weakness. UCLA, which has only 25 tackles for a loss and five sacks this season, must figure out a way to get pressure on Foles and create confusion with pressure schemes in order to disrupt his passing game. Arizona, which is giving up 196 yards rushing per game, will have to tighten up on the front seven or the potent UCLA rushing attack led by Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman will have a big day and control the game. Should the Wildcats stack the box, UCLA has an opportunity to throw because Arizona has only three sacks this season to rank as one of only two teams in the nation with fewer sacks than the Bruins.
5. BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG GAME
UCLA returns to the nationally-televised Thursday night showcase circuit after having two such games last season. Those didn't go very well, however, as the Bruins were blown out, 60-13, at Oregon then put on a putrid offensive display in a 24-7 loss at Washington. This is a golden opportunity for UCLA not only to make amends for those embarrassments, but also show the country that the program has turned a corner. A Bruins victory would put UCLA in a three-way tie for first place in the Pac-12 South division and you can imagine how badly the Bruins and embattled coach Rick Neuheisel would love for those words to be broadcast across the country on ESPN.