No. 14 UCLA (8-2, 5-2) vs. No. 17 Arizona State (8-2, 6-1)
Location: Rose Bowl, Nov. 23, 4 p.m.
TV: FOX (Gus Johnson, Charles Davis, Kristina Pink)
Radio: 570 AM (Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)
Last meeting: UCLA eked out a 45-43 win in Tempe, with then-freshman Ka’imi Fairbairn hitting a 33-yard field goal as time expired. Tailback Johnathan Franklin rushed for two touchdowns, while Damien Thigpen had two scoring catches.
Key storylines: Arizona State would clinch its first-ever Pac-12 South title with a win over UCLA, earning a chance to validate coach Todd Graham’s Rose Bowl poster. The Sun Devils have not won an outright conference title since 1996, when its undefeated season was spoiled with a three-point Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State.
UCLA needs to win out to secure a third straight spot in the Pac-12 Championship. Jim Mora has thus far guided his team effectively through a tougher schedule in his second year, but needs to close out strong after dropping three straight to end 2012.
Key players: UCLA has faced running backs who can swing as pass-catchers, but no one employs wheel routes quite as much as Arizona State does.
ASU senior Marion Grice is arguably the most versatile tailback in the country. He ranks second in the country in scoring with 120 points, with a position-leading six touchdown catches on the season. He’s on the cusp of becoming just third Sun Devils back to have a 1,000-yard rushing season since 2001, and also has 366 rushing yards. Should he stay on pace, he’ll break Wilford White’s 1950 record of 2,065 all-purpose yards.
D.J. Foster is a capable change-of-pace back, chipping in 175 yards on the ground and 523 through the air. The latter mark ranks second on the team behind receiver Jaelen Strong.
Overshadowed by plenty of other quarterbacks, Taylor Kelly has become a much greater scoring threat on the ground. After rushing for one touchdown last season, he has seven this year — all in his last five games. Through the air, he’s good but not great at 7.5 yards per attempt. He threw two interceptions in each of ASU’s losses, but the team also survived his pair of picks in last week’s win over Oregon State.
Freshman kicker Zane Gonzalez ranks seventh nationally with 101 points and has hit 14 straight field goal attempts, but none longer than 41 yards. He has only attempted two from farther out, missing a 49-yarder and 45-yarder in September.
The Sun Devils’ defense hasn’t been elite despite the presence of reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton. The 6-foot-1, 288-pound tackle anchors a stout rushing defense that allows 3.67 yards per carry — good for fourth in the league and 28th nationally — but ASU is surrendering 6.6 yards per pass attempt. It has also given up 24.4 points per game (seventh in Pac-12). Opponents are converting for touchdowns on 63.33 percent of red-zone opportunities.
UCLA backfield depth chart still looks thin, but starting tailback Jordon James is expected to play on Saturday after missing five of the last six games with an ankle injury. Reserve back Steve Manfro (ankle) practiced in pads on Wednesday. Senior Malcolm Jones (head) returned in a red non-contact jersey.
Did you know?: This is the first time UCLA and ASU have both played each other as AP top-25 teams since Oct. 4, 1986. The 16th-ranked Sun Devils beat the No. 15 Bruins, 16-9, en route to their only Rose Bowl Game victory.