What to watch: No. 18 UCLA vs. Washington State

With just one more home game at the Rose Bowl, UCLA remains on track for the Pac-12 South title.

However, Washington State looks like a different squad than the one that dropped a season opener to FCS opponent Portland State, and still sits in second place in its division after a two-point loss to No. 7 Stanford.

After three consecutive wins, the No. 18 Bruins (7-2, 4-2) can clinch a spot in the Pac-12 Championship by winning three more. Keeping that path clear will require navigating past a resurgent Cougars squad eager to pull an upset at 7:45 p.m. tonight.

When UCLA has the ball

It might be time for Paul Perkins to grab everyone’s attention again.

The redshirt junior has run for only two touchdowns since injuring his knee more than three weeks ago, but was healthy enough to carry the ball 23 times last Saturday — the tailback’s heaviest workload since September. WSU has allowed 18 rushing scores and 5.1 yards per carry, both of which stand as bottom-three marks in the Pac-12.

But the Cougars (6-3, 4-2) could open the game by stacking the box, as many other teams have done in an effort to neutralize Perkins. If that happens, UCLA will need some creative playcalling early and use Josh Rosen to stretch open the field. Continue reading “What to watch: No. 18 UCLA vs. Washington State” »

First look: No. 18 UCLA vs. Washington State

No. 18 UCLA Bruins (7-2, 4-2) vs. Washington State (6-3, 4-2)
Saturday, Nov. 14, 7:45 p.m., Rose Bowl
TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch, Brian Griese, Tom Luginbill)
Radio: AM 570 (Bill Roth, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Scouting report: For the fourth straight season, Washington State is ranked first in the country in pass attempts (512) and last in rushing attempts (214). Mike Leach, of course, is in his fourth year of coaching the Cougars. … When WSU does elect to run the ball, it has been more efficient — relatively speaking. After averaging less than 2.1 yards per carry through the last three seasons, the Cougars are up to almost 3.5 this fall. … Three Washington State receivers are among the Pac-12’s top 10 in total receiving yards, but none rank that high in yards per catch. The team has only connected on three passes of at least 40 yards, the lowest number in the conference. … The Cougars have had their two best defensive games in the last two weeks against Stanford and Arizona State. On the season, however, they are allowing opponents to convert 45.3 percent of third downs and score touchdowns on 70.3 percent of red-zone trips. … Leach said this is a less “selfish” roster than he’s had at WSU in years past, which has translated to a closer bond between teammates across position groups and better play on the field.

Series history: UCLA has won five straight games against WSU, but hasn’t faced the Cougars since 2012. The Bruins lead the all-time series, 39-19-1.

Key players:

QB Luke Falk, RSo., 6-4, 205 — 353/503, 3,736 yards, 33 TD, 7 INT
— After an ill-fated transfer to Oaks Christian that uprooted his family, the Utah native walked on at Washington State. He’s since shown why Florida State gave him his first scholarship offer. Continue reading “First look: No. 18 UCLA vs. Washington State” »