No one on UCLA’s side has underplayed the importance of its next game, a Saturday trip to Salt Lake City with effects that will ripple past state borders.
“This is it right here,” said Kenny Clark, the Bruins’ star nose tackle. “This is it for us. This is it for them.”
This is the game that could end Pac-12 South hopes for UCLA (7-3, 4-3) or Utah (8-2, 5-2), the game that could have one group of fans jumping into the air and the other shielding its eyes. Both are in position to potentially finish at the top of the division by winning out — though the No. 18 Utes also need USC to lose. Both could still fall to a forgettable bowl game.
Here’s what to watch when the Bruins kick off at 12:30 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
When UCLA has the ball
Josh Rosen has played like a top-level quarterback for the past several weeks. Can he keep it up against one of the best defenses he’s seen?
The true freshman has thrown 188 passes without an interception, and needs only 12 more to break UCLA’s record for consecutive attempts without a pick. However, Utah’s defense leads the Pac-12 with 16 picks. No team from a Power Five conference has more.
The Utes have a solid lineup across their entire defense, but the most impressive part is the line. Starting defensive end Hunter Dimick has been limited by injuries this season, but Kylie Fitts — who played sparingly at UCLA in 2013 before transferring out the following August — has filled in nicely, notching 4.5 sacks and six pass breakups in eight starts. On the other side of the line is senior Jason Fanaika, who is second on the team with 7.5 tackles for loss. Continue reading