First look: No. 14 Arizona Wildcats

No. 25 UCLA Bruins (6-2, 3-2) vs. No. 14 Arizona Wildcats (6-1, 4-1)
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m., Rose Bowl
TV: ESPN (Mark Jones, Rod Gilmore, Jessica Mendoza)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Coach: After lasting just three seasons at Michigan with a 15-22 record, Rich Rodriguez has found Arizona to be a friendler home for his spread offense.

Despite starting a different quarterback each season, the 51-year-old has guided the Wildcats to back-to-back 8-5 seasons and made them one of the country’s top-10 offenses twice in three years. Now, he has them on the cusp of their best campaign in over a decade. After upsetting then-No. 2 Oregon earlier this month, they went from unranked to No. 10 in the country — the largest jump by any team since the Associated Press poll expanded to a top 25.

Arizona hasn’t appeared in a final AP poll since 1998, when its 12-1 run made it the No. 4 team in the country.

Key players:

QB Anu Solomon, RFr., 6-2, 205 — 200/316, 2,430 yards, 20 TD, 4 INT
– Didn’t win the quarterback competition until late August, but he’s been entrusted to throw 45.1 passes per game. Third in the Pac-12 in yards per game (347.1), but eighth in completion percentage (63.3).

RB Nick Wilson, Fr., 5-10, 199 — 100 carries, 592 yards, 7 TD, 10 catches, 1 rec TD
– He’s splitting the workload with redshirt senior Terris Jones-Grigsby (70 carries, 406 yards), but Wilson is the one responsible for seven of the team’s 13 rushing touchdowns. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Quarterback Brett Hundley preaches focus on Arizona

UCLA has not played good football as of late, but it nevertheless remains in position to claim a Pac-12 South title with four games left.

To keep those hopes alive, the Bruins (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) will need to beat No. 14 Arizona on Saturday. The Wildcats are one of three teams in the division who have lost just one conference game. The others are Utah and Arizona State, who play each other this weekend.

“This is one of those weeks where, you have to understand that this is a big game for us,” UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley said. “This is a huge game.”

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UCLA picked to finish fourth in Pac-12 media poll

After losing four starters from last year’s Sweet 16 squad, UCLA men’s basketball was picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12.

A preseason media poll slotted the Bruins behind Arizona, Utah and Colorado — but did give them one first-place vote. All 31 other first-place votes went to the Wildcats, widely considered a national title contender.

They lost guard Nick Johnson and forward Aaron Gordon — the Pac-12 Player and Freshman of the Year, respectively — but return point guard T.J. McConnell and adds five-star recruit Stanley Johnson.

“There’s no better team than Arizona,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle told USA Today last week. Continue reading

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After Oregon’s loss, is UCLA the new Pac-12 favorite?

Nearly four months ago, UCLA was listed as an early favorite almost through its entire 2014 schedule. The exception? Mighty Oregon, just a year removed from four straight BCS bowls, and an early three-point favorite.

My, how things have changed.

UCLA stumbled out of the gate, collecting three uneven wins before stomping on then-No. 15 Arizona State last Thursday. The Bruins still have question marks, but they’re on the upswing, and back in the hearts and minds of at least a few national pundits. One ESPN analyst has them in the San Francisco Bowl, but another picked the Fiesta Bowl. CBS Sports has slotted UCLA back into the Sugar Bowl, as the No. 4 seed in a national semifinal against Alabama.

The No. 2 Ducks, meanwhile, might have cost themselves national title hopes with their 31-24 loss at home last night to Arizona — the most surprising undefeated team left in the country. (Earlier this week, Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde wrote this of the Wildcats: “Chances of being unbeaten by Halloween: zero.”) Continue reading

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Pac-12 links: Arizona State’s Chip Sarafin comes out as gay

» Arizona State offensive lineman Chip Sarafin came out on Wednesday, becoming first openly gay active player in Division I football.

» Redshirt freshman Anu Solomon is trying to win Arizona’s starting quarterback — something that would require beating out transfers from USC, LSU and Texas.

» The Ice Bucket Challenge has helped raise $2.3 million for the national ALS association since July 29, and UCLA coach Jim Mora accepted a challenge to join yesterday:

» Washington State crossed the Idaho border for training camp, but wildfires forced the Cougars back to Pullman. Continue reading

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Pac-12 notes: Mike Leach thinks Connor Halliday is better than your quarterback

Connor Halliday is the best quarterback in the country, according to Connor Halliday’s coach.

After talking up the Pac-12′s depth behind center on Wednesday, Washington State’s Mike Leach said he would take his redshirt senior over just about anybody else.

“You might be rooting for your guy, and I don’t care what you think,” Leach said. “He’s better than your guy is.”

Some other Pac-12 Media Day highlights from the conference’s most quotable coach (as well as other coaches and players) …

» Asked how he would pick a bear-hunting partner between Washington coach Chris Petersen and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham: “We get a large bag and we stick in Coach Petersen, Coach Whittingham, and we shake that bag up really high and really hard.”

» On his fishing trip this summer: “My staff and I went fishing up in McCall, Idaho on the Snake River and got a huge 9.5-foot, 350-pound sturgeon, probably 95 years old. Of course, turned him loose so he could pull somebody else’s boat around for a while next time.” Continue reading

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