UCLA vs. Washington State: Preview

Here’s the preview that ran in today’s paper. Marquess Wilson, as rumored earlier this week, is now officially off the team. Now for a quick look at how the teams match up:

Offense: Washington State’s passing game is quantity over quality, averaging over 50 passes per game (first in the Pac-12) but only 6.3 yards per attempt (10th). The Cougars running game is almost nonexistent, with just three touchdowns on the season and four games with negative yardage. UCLA is coming off its most explosive offensive showing in years, and . Don’t expect quite the same numbers, but there’s no reason the WSU defense will offer much resistance. Edge: UCLA.

Defense: The Bruins just had their most (and perhaps only) complete game of the year, and it was against one of the more high-powered offenses in the country. Linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr are both having outstanding seasons, and no team in the FBS has surrendered more sacks this year than WSU’s 40. The Cougars have allowed at least 420 offensive yards in every game this year except close losses to Oregon State and Stanford. Edge: UCLA.

Special Teams: Freshman Randall Goforth showed promise as a punt returner when Shaq Evans started cramping up last week. He earned an encore performance with his 36-yard return, the Bruins’ longest of the year. Washington State’s average on kick and punt returns, as well as field goals, aren’t far behind, but they don’t have a punter like Jeff Locke. Edge: UCLA.

Players to Watch: For WSU, Gabe Marks and Brett Bartolone. With all-time leading receiver Marquess Wilson now off the team, the two freshmen will carry the load for the most pass-happy offense in the country. They only have two triple-digit games between them — both by Marks, a former four-star recruit — but that number figures to go up soon. UCLA’s secondary has struggled somewhat with tackling and penalties, but it’s been trending up in recent weeks.

X-Factor(s): Marquess Wilson was suspended earlier this week for walking out of practice, and has now released a no-holds-barred statement (via Visalia Times-Delta) quitting the team and accusing Leach of emotional abuse. Leach also publicly called his players often this season; he’s either on the verge of losing them completely, or reshaping it in his mold. Bets on the former, but today’s game should help illuminate that.

There was some light snow earlier, but it doesn’t look like weather will be much of a factor. Might see a few more dropped balls out there if receivers don’t keep their hands warm throughout the game.

Prediction: UCLA 37, WSU 14

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