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Spaulding Roundup: UCLA's Biggest Game Of The Season

Honestly if we experienced a night like Monday 2-3 years ago I would have had a very difficult time getting putting that aside and getting out of a funk. I am not naive and I am well aware that our basketball team right now has a lot of issues to work on for them to develop as a team that will put together a winning season. Yet I am not really thinking or worrying about them all that much. I am going to watch the game on Friday night to find out exactly what is going on with our young guys. However, right now the basketball team is not really at the top of of my mind. That is because right now, at this time I am just thinking about Saturday.

I haven't been this excited about UCLA football in years. ucla13_usc9 has it exactly right. I can't think of a bigger football game for this program than the one we are going to play this Saturday. Let's think about it for a second. If UCLA can manage to pull out a win this weekend, it will be sitting with a record of 6-5 and find itself at the perfect pivot point to take the next step. Of course there is the angle of getting into a bowl game and getting our young team two extra weeks of practices (that will be valuable for development of a team with so many underclassmen sprinkled all over our lineup).

To me though the most important part of getting a win this weekend will be that incredible sense of momentum. With 6 wins CRN will be able to sell the notion of "Plus 2." Think about what he accomplished on the recruiting trail with a 4-8 record last season. Now think what he might be able to do if he can show recruits not just by words but by his W-L record showing a clear sign of progress with at least 2 more wins. A victory this Saturday will get us that palpable sense of momentum we haven't experience as a program since the late 90s when number 18 was driving the Bruin offense up and down the field. Although watching Kevin Prince driving our offense up and down the field in recent weeks, I can almost ... almost ... get a little sense of that magical feeling (of wanting the Bruin defense to take care of business fast so I can watch the offense again) I used to experience almost a decade.

This game is just so huge. It sounds like our guys know it and kind of feel it.  Jon Gold posted last night that the Bruins had a "rowdy practice" as they "know full well what a win over Arizona State means to the season." CRN had this to say about the mindset of his football team:

"We're a young team, and young teams are impressionable. To come off a couple of victories and still have a chance to get in the postseason - those are exciting things for our guys. It's going to take a great effort, but we're capable of it."

It's going to take a great effort for our offensive line. They have gotten better at the expense of some of the worst defenses in the conference. They know that they will have to step it up to whole another level this Saturday. Here is what Jeff Baca, the sophomore left guard had to say about the challenge he and his linemates are going to face against ASU:

"Coaches tell us we're getting better each week, and that's what we're trying to do."

The Bruins will have a much tougher task this week in the form of Arizona State, which ranks 15th nationally in total defense and 29th in scoring defense.

They are particularly tough against the run and have averaged 6.8 tackles for a loss per game.

With a defense that has such ability to get upfield, the offensive linemen are taking it as personal.

"You've got to win one-on-one battles," Baca said. "Both in pass rush and run blocking. You've got to win those. Coach has told us this is a huge game. This is our bowl-eligible game. This is fantastic for a young offensive line like we are.

"We're growing up fast, but this is a challenge."

While Baca and his team-mates are gearing up for the challenge against ASU's defensive front, Jet Ski is working hard to set aside his personal nightmares from recent games. More on him and othe notes after the jump.

We have discussed how it is imperative for JetSki to get it back together and shake any kind of focus or concentration issue he might be having that could be causing his fumble issues. Well, it sounds like the coaches haven't given up on him and he is doing everything he can to have the right attitutude about it:

"It's rough, especially when ... it's just rough," Franklin said. "It's the worst feeling ever. It's one of those feelings that is indescribable, especially as a running back.

"You've got the team counting on you, you've got the coaches, you've got the family in the stadium watching, family at home watching. It's disappointing. A lot of people are counting on you and by fumbling, you let a lot of people down."

Franklin didn't include himself on that list but he could have. His recent turnovers have left him feeling frustrated but he insists that he has to continue to look forward.

"It's something I have to learn from," he said. "It's something I have to learn from to better my career or to basically stay on the field."

Staying on the field doesn't seem to be a problem. Franklin was one of a handful of running backs getting his share of reps with the Bruins' No. 1 offense Tuesday.

Franklin is quick to push his successes and failures into the past. One of the worst things he can do is try to make up for the missed opportunities because that is when more mistakes are made.

"Regardless of what happens in a game, you have to let it go," he said. "It definitely takes time to get it out but to progress and better yourself, you have to let it go and move on. You have to. You always have to keep your head up and keep a good attitude to become a better player."

Here is to Jet Ski getting back into rhythm this weekend. The fun thing about our offense is that we still haven't seen it totally click yet. Early in the season Jet Ski was having success but at that time neither Prince nor Craft was giving him any kind aerial support by being in rhythm. Now in recent weeks we have had Prince spraying passes all over the field but not with a very productive rushing attack. If we can get Jet Ski and Prince to have their most efficient performances in the same game, our offense is going to be fun to watch. I am crossing my fingers that we get to experience it finally this weekend against ASU.

Meanwhile, over at ASU, Dennis Erickson is still being coy about who will be his QB. It looks like Szakacsy has been getting most of the reps with first time at least to start the week. From Ted Miller on WWL:

Szakacsy came off the bench and completed 13 of 22 passes for 113 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions in the 44-21 defeat. He also ran for a touchdown and used to his speed to elude heavy pressure from the Ducks.

"He'll get the most reps with the ones this week," Erickson said.

True freshman Brock Osweiler made his first career start against the Ducks, but was knocked out off the game with a shoulder injury. He had replaced senior senior Danny Sullivan, who was nursing a biceps injury. Both are expected to be available Saturday, but it appears that Erickson wants a closer look at Szakacsy, an athletic sophomore who's battled a nagging elbow problem since he arrived in Tempe.

"We've just never have seen him because he's been hurt all the time," Erickson said. "So we're going to let him take that first group quite a bit in the next few days and see where he's at."

CRN and his coaches took note of what Szakacsy did against Oregon last weekend:

"We certainly take notice of him and think he played well in the second half. He does provide different challenges, but I'm not sure that means a wholesale change in their offense. He's certainly capable of making some moves with his legs."

Samson is going to be an interesting challenge for our defense. Our guys have been vulnerable this season to QBs with mobility. Still have visions of Andrew Luck picking up key yards against us up in Palo Alto.  Even Lopina when he entered the game in Pullman had success scrambling against us up in Pullman.  So I hope Bullough and his coaches are doing their necessary homework.

The defense will really need to step up to the challenge on Saturday.  We expected a lot out of our defense this season and frankly except for the Tennessee game they haven't really come through with a marquee performance in which they won the game for us. Well this is a huge opportunity for them to win us a game. I do think our offense will face a stiff challenge from the ASU defense. So, it will be up to our defense to unleash an all out attack against ASU's young QBs and distrupt and throttle them at the Rose Bowl.

This is going to be one of those games in which defensive turnovers, special teams play and penalties are going to be huge. I hope our guys are prepared in all facets of the game this weekend to make a statement and grab a chokehold on that sense of momentum of progress we haven't experienced as a program in almost a decade. Again, I will end with the same plea I made yesterday. If you are out in Southern California get to the Rose Bowl in Bruin Blue. Don't forget it's also Senior Day, which is only going to add to the emotion in what IMHO is the biggest game of this football season and again perhaps the most important game of this program (to date) in years.

If you are a UCLA student you have no excuse for not being at the Rose Bowl this Saturday.