Quarterback Brett Hundley named a Maxwell Award semifinalist

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley hasn’t had the dominant season many expected him, but he’s still regarded as one of the best players in college football.

The redshirt junior was named today as one of 20 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award, arguably the sport’s most prestigious honor not involving a stiff-arming statuette. Only two other players were picked from the Pac-12: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, now regarded as the Heisman frontrunner, and USC running back Buck Allen.

Hundley is second in the country in completion percentage (71.0) but has only thrown for 389 yards and two touchdowns in his last two outings — games in which he faced passing defenses ranked 90th (Colorado) and 121st (Arizona) nationally. He has also lost a fumble in four straight games.

After UCLA’s 17-7 win over the Wildcats on Saturday, Hundley said that NFL draft expectations had affected his playing style earlier this season, making him more reluctant to run.

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UCLA relies on defense in close win over No. 14 Arizona

UCLA’s defense swallows up Arizona receiver Austin Hill in a 17-7 win at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 1, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

» UCLA’s defense put together its best showing yet in a 17-7 win over No. 14 Arizona. The Bruins will need more of that to stay in the Pac-12 South race.
» What was billed as a shootout turned into a gritty game, one that saw quarterback Brett Hundley run the ball 24 times.
» Notebook on Paul Perkins joining the 1,000-yard club, the Bruins’ first red-zone miss, and bowl representatives.

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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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