Welcome to Bruins Nation’s Pregame Guesses, iteration number 10 of the 2017 season. The UCLA Bruin football team (4-5, 2-5 PAC 12) heads into the final stretch of its season having lost its last two games, and five of its last seven. Injuries are mounting for the Bruins, who have now lost their top receiver, Darren Andrews, for the season. In addition to the injury to Josh Rosen, UCLA has now lost its top tight end (Caleb Wilson) for the season, one of its top running backs (Nate Starks) for the season, and now Andrews. Couple the injuries on offense with a defense that has been putrid and poorly coached, and it is easy to see why UCLA is fading fast toward the end of the season.
Tomorrow, the Bruins look to get back on track at home when they face the Arizona State Sun Devils (5-4, 4-2 PAC 12). ASU has been an enigma this season, soundly beating Washington at home, 13-7, and handling Utah on the road, 30-10, but also allowing 52 points to a mediocre Texas Tech team in Lubbock. For a while, it appeared that Arizona State was one of the teams that was vastly improving, until it was blown out by Southern Cal in Tempe. The Sun Devils have only played three road games this season, going 1-2. They will face a UCLA team that is undefeated in the Rose Bowl, perhaps giving some UCLA fans hope for this game.
For UCLA to have a shot at a 6-6 record and bowl eligibility, the Bruins need a “W” in this game. Obviously, winning in the Mausoleum next weekend will be a tall order for this team (I personally have zero confidence that the Bruins will be competitive in the Southern Cal game, but then again, I thought the same thing in 1989), but it is not unreasonable to conclude that UCLA can be competitive with UC Berkeley in the last game of the season. Of course, UCLA could just as easily lose all three of its remaining games and finish a lowly 4-8, the same record as last season.
Indeed, UCLA’s 2017 is starting to look a lot like its 2016 season, in which the Bruins lost six of their last seven, after starting the season 3-2. UCLA was 3-2 to start the season this year as well, and has gone 1-3 since then. The bottom fell out on UCLA after Josh Rosen was injured last season; UCLA has not been the same on offense since Rosen got hurt two weeks ago this season. If this sounds like a broken record, it is. In that vein, here is “The Song Remains the Same” by classic rock icons, Led Zeppelin:
Of course, UCLA still has a chance to try to change the song, so to speak, if Rosen is able to come back from injury and the Bruins get a win tomorrow and another at home in two weeks against UC Berkeley.
If Josh Rosen completes the concussion protocol and is able to play in the ASU game, it will be a boon for the Bruins. Although it has been serviceable under Devon Modster, UCLA’s offense truly hums when Rosen is taking the snaps. The viability of UCLA passing game is important because Arizona’s State’s passing defense is suspect, allowing 263.7 yards per game in the air, slotting in at #110 in the nation. Although Arizona State’s rushing defense is only #82 in the nation, NOT having Rosen at QB would allow the Sun Devils to stack the box against the run, and dare UCLA to try to beat them in the air. It is hard to believe that ASU only allowed Washington to score seven points, in that it is ranked #106 in total defense, allowing 441.9 yards per game, and #93 in scoring defense, allowing 30.8 yards per game. Rosen would even the playing field when UCLA has the ball (literally and figuratively). PGG number one is a two-parter. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER 1: How many total yards will the ASU defense concede against UCLA. Break down your total between passing yards and rushing yards.
Although the Sun Devil defense is not great, it is the 1985 Chicago Bears compared to UCLA’s, which is #122 in total defense, surrendering 489.6 yards per game, and #124 in scoring defense, allowing a whopping 38.8 points per game. Arizona State’s offense is pretty balanced, with 373 rushing attempts on the season to 303 passing attempts. ASU quarterback, junior Manny Wilkins, is a solid, game manager-type quarterback, who has thrown for 2298 yards this season and 11 touchdowns. The Sun Devils feature a two-headed monster at running back, with Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage combining for 989 yards on the ground, and 11 touchdowns. Arizona State’s rushing attack rescued it last week from several deficits against Colorado in the desert, as the Sun Devils’ rushing attack ground out 381 yards. PGG number 2 is another two-parter. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER #2: How many touchdowns will the Arizona State offense score against UCLA? Of those touchdowns, how many will be on the ground and how many will be through the air?
PGG number 3 is a simple question and requires no exposition leading up to the question. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER #3: With so much riding on this game and nary a loss at home this season, will UCLA beat Arizona State in the Rose Bowl to even its records at 5-5 and keep its flickering bowl hopes alive?
BONUS GUESS: As usual, for home games we ask you to predict the attendance. So far this season, UCLA is averaging 58,029 fans per game at the Rose Bowl. There were 64,635 in attendance for the Texas A&M game, 50,444 for Hawai’i, 61,338 for Colorado, and 55,700 for Oregon. The way I look at it, there was a bump for UCLA’s first home game after school was in session, and then a decrease for Oregon due to the poor product on the field. Frankly, I think there will be slightly less than 50,000 at the Rose Bowl tomorrow, and many of them will be Arizona State fans who now live in Southern California.
Another Pregame Guesses is in the books! Take your chances and test your luck in the comment section below.