What to watch: No. 25 UCLA vs. No. 14 Arizona

I have no idea what’s going to happen to UCLA tonight. The No. 25 Bruins kick off at 7:30 p.m. and could find their groove again against 14th-ranked Arizona — romping out to their most convincing win of the season. They could completely implode in a turnover-filled blowout. They could fall just short, or squeak by in yet another close effort.

Anything is possible!

What to watch at the Rose Bowl as UCLA tries to fix its own recent foot-shooting habits:

UCLA offense vs. Arizona defense: Brett Hundley has lost a fumble in three straight games now, and can’t afford another one in a game that could knock the Bruins out of the race for the Pac-12 South. Tasked with trying to pop the ball out from Hundley’s grip is linebacker Scooby Wright III, who has turned himself into college football’s resident expert in this particular field.

Wright has turned himself from a two-star recruit into one of the conference’s hardest hitters. He leads the country with five forced fumbles, his biggest one coming against Marcus Mariota to clinch the Wildcats’ upset of Oregon. He is also third in the Pac-12 in sacks (8) and second in tackles for loss (14), and is the key to the front of a 3-3-5 scheme that is only giving up 3.88 yards per carry.

Establishing the run will be key for UCLA, which is good given the roll that Paul Perkins has been on recently. 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’s win at Colorado just the latest in season of ugly games

Brett Hundley runs past Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie for an 8-yard, game-winning touchdown in double overtime. (Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

» UCLA snuck out of Boulder with a 40-37 win, but needing double overtime to survive Colorado is one more step down the hole of an underwhelming season.
» The Bruins still can’t shake the penalty bug, and are now losing an average of 80 yards per game to flags under Jim Mora.

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What to watch: UCLA at Cal

UCLA hasn’t won at Memorial Stadium in 1998, but this is no longer the Cal team that placed in the top half of the conference under Jeff Tedford for most of the 2000s. The Bears have been one of the Pac-12′s biggest surprises, with a 4-1 start already matching their win total from the past two seasons — but could get exposed with a rough second-half schedule.

The Bruins, meanwhile, need to keep their season from spiraling out of control after back-to-back losses to Utah and Oregon most likely erased their playoff hopes.

What to watch heading into today’s 12:30 p.m. kickoff:

UCLA offense vs. Cal defense: By at least one measure, UCLA has the No. 1 offense in college football. No, that’s not a typo. The Bruins are first overall in offensive FEI, an efficiency rating that accounts for the strength of opposing defenses. In those rankings, the weakest defense UCLA has faced this season is Memphis, at No. 54.

But even by more traditional stats, the Bruins’ chances look good on Saturday. UCLA’s best offensive performance this year came against Arizona State, a team that lost nine defensive starters and currently gives up 6.07 yards per play. That number is good for 99th in the FBS and last in the Pac-12.

Cal isn’t much better. The Bears have surrendered 5.92 yards per play and, like the Sun Devils, are particularly vulnerable through the air. Continue reading

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What to watch: No. 18 UCLA vs. No. 12 Oregon

No. 12 Oregon’s arrival at the Rose Bowl on Saturday could give UCLA a chance at a program-altering win it sorely needs right now — even if head coach Jim Mora was reluctant to acknowledge it this week.

What to watch heading into today’s 12:30 p.m. kickoff:

UCLA offense vs. Oregon defense: For all the talent and skill that Brett Hundley possesses, he can’t do much once he’s dragged to the ground. And considering that the Bruins’ allowed 10 sacks in last week’s loss against Utah last week, it’s almost surprising that the final 30-28 margin wasn’t larger.

The offensive line isn’t completely to blame for all those sacks, but even the staff agreed that the protection on the edges were lacking. Starting tackles Malcolm Bunche and Caleb Benenoch are playing out of position after arriving at UCLA as guards, something that especially showed against Utah defensive ends last weekend. A significant part of the Bruins’ hopes for an upset will depend on if the unit up front can redeem itself — an opportunity that Bunche himself suggested earlier this week.

If Hundley has time to throw, he should be able to find holes in the Ducks’ defense. The redshirt junior has stretched the field in his final season at UCLA, and already has nine passes of at least 40 yards — just eight shy of his previous two-year total. Those nine passes rank him third in the country in that category, behind Cal’s Jared Goff and Washington State’s Connor Halliday.

After allowing fewer than 5.0 yards per play in five of the last six seasons, Oregon is giving up 5.73 this season. Continue reading

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UCLA left tackle Malcolm Bunche: ‘It’s redemption time’

Coming off its first loss of the season, one particular set of UCLA players may particularly eager to hit the field again for Saturday’s showdown against No. 12 Oregon.

“It’s redemption time, man,” said Bruin left tackle Malcolm Bunche. “As an offense, we gave up what, 10 sacks? It’s time to redeem ourselves. And we know it.”

Them, and just about everyone else who saw Utah pull a 30-28 upset at the Rose Bowl last Saturday. The Utes unleashed 10 sacks, including three straight to snuff a fourth-quarter UCLA drive just inches in front of its own goal line.

Those 10 sacks, Utah’s highest single-game tally since 1983, again exposed an offensive line that had appeared to improve through its first four games. After allowing five sacks at Virginia in a performance that offensive line coach Adrian Klemm called “one of the sh–iest performances I’ve been a part of as a player or a coach,” the unit buckled down: four sacks given up to Memphis, three to Texas, one to Arizona State. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Brett Hundley reviews UCLA’s loss, looks to Oregon

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley looked back on Monday at his team’s 30-28 loss to Utah and the 10 sacks he took, and looked forward to Saturday’s tilt against No. 12 Oregon.

“It’s a big game for us,” Hundley said. “But like I said, this game isn’t bigger than any other game previously. This is another game, obviously, the whole nation is going to be watching. We can go out and show the country what UCLA’s really about.”

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