Arizona State wasn't really tested against Pac-12 doormat Colorado, as the Sun Devils won 48-14 in Tempe and became bowl eligible. This week, UCLA presents more of a challenge for the Sun Devils on the road, where Arizona State is just 1-2 this season.
"UCLA has a lot of talent on their football team. They totally dominated that Cal game, which Cal is an awfully good football team," said Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson at his weekly press conference on Monday. "They have a lot of talent. They���re good on defense and offense, when they get the ball running."
UCLA is fighting for its postseason life at the moment, needing to win two of its last four games to earn a bowl bid. The Bruins took a huge step forward last weekend against Cal, and have a favorable two-game stretch following its matchup with Arizona State. The Bruins will travel to Salt Lake City next weekend to meet Utah, then return home on November 19th to take on Colorado.
Brock Osweiler torched Colorado for 307 yards and two touchdowns last weekend, the latest chapter in his progression under center for the Sun Devils this season. Osweiler has thrown for 2,275 yards and 17 touchdowns against eight interceptions, and has thrown for over 300 yards in two of the last three games (had 291 yards against Oregon three weeks ago). Arizona State boasts the third rated passing attack in the Pac-12 (294.5), and Osweiler ranks 30th in passing efficiency (146.4) and 17th in total offense (295.6). Jamal Miles and Gerrell Robinson have been major benefactors at receiver, with each averaging 4.5 catches per game. Robinson leads the team with 76.5 yards per game. Aaron Pflugrad is second in receiving yards with 55.7. Cameron Marshall leads the Sun Devils' rushing attack, and currently ranks seventh in the Pac-12 with 79 yards per game. Marshall had 114 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries last weekend against Colorado.
The Sun Devils' defense generated five turnovers last weekend against Colorado, and held the Buffs to just 83 yards rushing. Arizona State is sixth in the Pac-12 in rushing defense (141) as well as sixth in total defense (381.2). The Sun Devils allow just 21.5 points per game, and in two of the last three games have given up just 14 points in each. All-American candidate Vontaze Burfict leads the team in sacks, tackles for loss and is fourth overall in tackles. Colin Parker has also had a strong campaign through eight games, averaging 6.1 tackles per game.
UCLA used ball-control against Cal, winning the time of possession battle and accumulating 294 yards rushing. Derrick Coleman had 80 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. But the real difference maker on the ground was quarterback Kevin Prince, who rushed 19 times for 163 yards. He added 9-of-18 completions for 92 yards through the air, and UCLA picked up its most respectable victory of the year.
Prince is responsible for 145 yards of total offense per game this year, and Coleman gets 52.8 yards per game on the ground. The leading rusher for the physical Bruins is Johnathan Franklin, who averages 70.6 yards per outing; UCLA generates 187.2 yards per game, good for 34th in the country. UCLA is one of the few teams in the Pac-12 to not boast a prolific passing game, and average under 200 yards passing per game. Prince has started the past two weeks, and on the year has thrown for 635 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions. Only one player, Nelson Rosario, has caught more than 16 passes. Rosario has 35 catches for 614 yards, good for sixth in the Pac-12; Joseph Fauria is the next leading receiver with 16 grabs and four touchdowns.
UCLA's defense allowed Cal to move the ball during stretches, but created five turnovers which proved the difference. The Bruins held Zach Maynard to 14- of-30 passing for 199 yards and four interceptions, and for the most part, kept Cal's leading rusher Isi Sofele in check (15 carries, 74 yards, one touchdown). It was the most complete performance for a UCLA defense that has struggled for much of the season.
Nonetheless, Erickson is wary of the athleticism on the unit.
"We're going to have our hands full. Defensively, they run around, they're down four," said Erickson. "They���ve got seven or eight guys that play that have been heavily recruited we tried to recruit some of them ourselves."
The Bruins are 89th nationally in total defense (423.2) and 92nd in scoring defense (31.8). Patrick Larimore leads the team with 49 tackles, while Datone Jones has posted a team-high 4.5 tackles for loss. UCLA has registered just 37 tackles for loss through eight games.