UCLA starts Pac-12 play tonight at 7 p.m. with one of the most high-profile college football games of the week. No. 15 Arizona State doesn’t have starting quarterback Taylor Kelly, but remains the defending division champion.
Here’s are a few things to watch:
UCLA offense vs. Arizona State defense:
A lot obviously hinges on whether or not Brett Hundley plays after injuring his left elbow on Sept. 13, but it’s a good bet that the star quarterback suits up after practicing with a protective brace over the past week. UCLA’s coaching staff has insisted that the playbook doesn’t change with backup Jerry Neuheisel, but Hundley stretches the field with his arm and legs in a way that Neuheisel can’t.
Assuming Hundley goes, UCLA’s offense could be the first team that truly exposes an ASU defense that lost nine starters from its Pac-12 South-winning unit. The Sun Devils are still forcing takeaways — No. 7 nationally in turnover margin (1.67) — they’ve given up big plays despite a lackluster early schedule. ASU allows 5.41 yards per play, good for 74th in college football but a mark that looks far worse when you consider that it has faced an FCS team (Weber State), a below-average Mountain West team (New Mexico) and arguably the worst team in the Pac-12 (Colorado). Those latter rank just 82nd and 89th in the country in scoring, respectively, at 28.3 and 25.8 points per game.
So if Hundley avoids interceptions against a decent secondary, he should do enough to break open the game. He has a reliable No. 1 tailback next to him now in Paul Perkins — who’s coming off a career game with 195 all-purpose yards against Texas — and an offensive line that seems to be gelling more with each passing game.
If Neuheisel has to enter the game at any point, the matchup becomes a little more dicey. The redshirt sophomore perfectly fits the game-manager mold, and came through with a 33-yard game-winning touchdown against the Longhorns, but isn’t the dynamic threat that would scare a defense that has a full game’s worth of film on him.
UCLA defense vs. Arizona State offense:
Myles Jack didn’t play linebacker against the Sun Devils last year, a tactical decision that Jim Mora still regards as one of his biggest regrets. Having him in this time on defense will be crucial against an Arizona State squad that has D.J. Foster — who could end up being an All-Pac-12 tailback at the end of the season.
Foster was a highly-sought UCLA recruit back in 2012, and UCLA’s coaches and players were happy to talk him up over the past week. He’s become a very effective runner and can grind out yards after contact, but is also a dangerous threat as a pass catcher. Continue reading