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Defensive Surge

CFN has its Pac-10 game previews up, which includes this weekend's game crucial game at the Rose Bowl:

[Why] UCLA might win: The UCLA offense needs some tinkering.  The Arizona offense needs a complete overhaul.  The same Cat offense, which has produced negative rushing yards the last two weeks and is last in the Pac-10 in every major category, must now face a Bruin defense that's had 14 sacks the last three weeks and is No. 9 nationally at stopping the run.  If Arizona reaches double-digits on the road, it'll qualify as an upset. Don't forget the revenge factor. The Wildcats the 8-0 Bruins 52-14 last year in one of the biggest, ugliest blowouts of the year.

Who to watch: Are the Bruins a second-tier Pac-10 team or are they capable of contending for a Holiday Bowl invite? The answer lies in Ben Olson's left arm.  After opening strong against Utah, the quarterback has slumped, throwing two touchdown passes and five interceptions, while averaging a measly five yards per attempt.  Beginning this week against an underrated Arizona secondary, Olson needs to find his rhythm if UCLA is going to be more than just a six or seven win team.
Obviously its more than just Olson on offense. Olson needs to find his rhythm, but it's the coaches who will need to come up with a game plan, that will facilitate his efforts to get in rhythm.  Constantly putting him in 3rd and long situations, by calling RRPs (run-run-pass series) will not get it done.

This is a big game for both teams. For Arizona this is it. If they have any aspirations of getting to some (3rd tier) bowl game, then they will need to come up with victory. Meanwhile, for us this should be an easy win, taking us to a 4-1 record, before we go on our most difficult road swing of the season taking on real football teams such as Oregon and Notre Dame. If Dorrell and his staff somehow choke away this game or come up with yet another uninspiring and lackluster Rice/Stanford like efforts, it will not bode well for us to meet the minimum expectations for this season.

While the offense needs to come up with a consistent and complete performance, it will be the surging defense, which should be key to a comfortable win this Saturday. And CFN expects a fairly comfortable win:
What will happen: The Bruins won't completely solve their offensive issues this weekend, leaning instead on a surging defense to carry them to a second straight win.

CFN Prediction: UCLA 27 ... Arizona 13 ... Line: UCLA -11.5
Speaking of our surging defense, they are getting a lot of hype. At least the players leading the surging defense are getting a lot of press.

The campus newspaper is certainly excited about the new defense. David Wood from the Daily Bruin is gushing about the defensive line:
The strength of the UCLA football team so far this year has been the defense. That has been a surprise. The strength of this defense has been its line. That would have been almost unthinkable before the season began.

Senior defensive end Justin Hickman has been a big part of the defensive resurgence. Leading the team with seven tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, Hickman has been a beast against opposing offensive lines and is vastly improved from last year.
Uh if David did some basic research before writing his article, he would have known that the fact that our defensive line is deep and talented is not a surprise to members of BN, who follow this program day to day.

Anyways, Hickman is not the only one getting love. Dohn also profiles Bruce Davis, another defensive lineman (from Texas) who is enjoying a great start to this 2006 season. It's a feel good story on a Texas kid, who almost transferred out in frustration last season when he felt that Dorrell's defensive staff was not taking advantage of his talent. Looks like the situation has been resolved and he is now enjoying his stay in Westwood.

Hickman and Davis should be adding to their sack totals this weekend when they take on Arizona. As LA Times notes they are going to take on Willie Tuitama, the worst QB in the Pac-10:
He completed less than 50% of his throws and three of his passes were intercepted in the Wildcats' first two games against Brigham Young and Louisiana State.

"Willie is throwing the ball better, but our protection hasn't been where it needs to be and our inability to run the football has hurt him," Arizona Coach Mike Stoops said. "With those two things, you are setting your quarterback up for disaster. Our receivers also have not been as productive as we would have liked."

Of the 10 starting quarterbacks in the Pacific 10 Conference, Tuitama ranks last in passing efficiency with a 105.4 rating. Tuitama's biggest problem has been interceptions. He has thrown five with only three touchdown passes.
Given Tuitama's troubles and the non-existent Arizona running game, we should expect Hickman, Davis and co. to have a monster Saturday. As CFN notes above if Arizona offense reaches double digit against our surging defense, it would qualify as an upset.

And speaking of the surging defense it is nice to see our guys right now are playing up to their potential,  This is cool, but it should be the norm and always expected at UCLA. It's too bad the standards have fallen so low in Westwood during last seven years of mediocrity, and shitty football that we are celebrating the accomplishments of a defense, which is ranked number 3 but basically has piled up its stats against teams with offenses ranked no where in the top-40 in college football. The best offensive team we have played so far is Washington, which is ranked no. 48 in college football. The only other notable opponent Utah has the 62nd best offense in the nation. I don't think I have to give you the stats on Stanford and Rice to assert their joke teams. And they should be able to pad those gaudy stats against the 109th ranked offense this weekend.

We should expect our defense to continue to play up to their potential, and continue to surge against yet another awful opponent this Saturday before they finally get tested in the following weeks.