THIS WEEK’S OPPONENT:
Arizona Wildcats, Rose Bowl – Saturday, November 3, 7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
LINE: UCLA by 3
After I did some research and looked at some stats of the team that stunned the USC Trojans on October 27, I came to this conclusion:
These Wildcats from Tucson, AZ, who are ranked 24th in the nation by the AP and are 22nd in the BCS standings, have an offense that is good.
Very good – a high-flying, spread type of offense that is ranked 4th in the country.
Let me count the ways:
Matt Scott has been, without a doubt, Arizona’s most valuable player as the fifth-year senior quarterback has thrown for over 2,700 yards and 20 touchdowns this year to date. He was a huge key in beating USC in Tucson, accounting for 469 yards of total offense, 369 on the air and – in an even bigger cause for concern – 100 yards on the ground.
It was thought that Scott suffered a concussion after two Trojan defenders hit him on the head, but on Monday he stated that he was fine and ready to go against UCLA this Saturday night.
He will have not one, but two receiving threats at his disposal as Austin Hill and Dan Buckner each have over 50 receptions, with Hill averaging 117 yards a game to go along with his seven touchdowns.
As a contrast, the Bruins’ leading receiver, Shaquelle Evans, has but 33 catches, though in fairness quarterback Brett Hundley has spread the ball around more and has thrown to different people.
In case one is thinking that UCLA’s defense can put some extra men in the secondary to neutralize Hill and Buckner, Ka’Deem Carey offsets that in a big way as the running back has scored 12 touchdowns on the ground and is averaging 5.3 yards a carry and 120 yards a game.
The key to even slowing down this Wildcat attack lies in the Bruin front seven – linemen such as Datone Jones and Cassius Marsh and linebackers such as Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr, who leads the team with 8.5 sacks, must have one thing in mind on the field:
Matt Scott has to have VERY little time to thrown the ball, if any. He must be hurried, running for his life, and sacked at least a few times, or else Hill, Buckner and the rest of Arizona’s receivers will have a field day.
Conversely, as the Widcats’ defense is nothing to write home about, having given up an average of 31 points per contest, which explains their 5-3 overall record and 2-3 mark in the Pac-12 Conference, 25th ranked (in the AP) UCLA certainly has the weapons that can carve up Arizona.
As he already has over 1,000 yards on the season and needs only 21 more to become the Bruins’ all-time leading rusher, Johnathan Franklin should break that record, which has been held by Gaston Green since 1987, by the time the first quarter ends. He will definitely pose a problem for the Wildcat defense, as will Hundley – who has passed the 2,000 yard mark in the air with 18 touchdowns and should definitely get much consideration for the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award – if his offensive line does its job and gives him time to throw.
All-in-all, when putting everything together all indications point toward one thing that will likely happen at the Rose Bowl this Saturday night:
An aerial show.
A battle that may well come down to who gets the ball last.
The evidence comes in the points per game for the two teams: Arizona averages 39 points, while UCLA averages almost 33 and a half; this will be the kind of game where itwill all depend on who better steps up on defense.
One factor does play in the Bruins’ favor: Revenge.
I really don’t think anyone who was on UCLA’s team last season will forget the 48-12 humiliation, which included a brawl between several Bruin receivers and Arizona defenders that netted several ejections and suspensions, that the Wildcats put on them in Tucson.
And I really think that the Bruins will be out on a mission to avenge that this Saturday night in front of the home folks on Homecoming, along with the other four losses in a row that they have suffered to the Wildcats as their last win over them was in 2006.
Whether or not that sense of avenging that terrible loss, which made former coach Rick Neuheisel’s seat white hot, will help UCLA remains to be seen.
But one thing is for certain: This game will be VERY intriguing.