This Saturday, the UCLA Bruins return home and look to earn their third win of the season as they take on the Arizona State Sun Devils. In order to get a better handle on our opponents, I had a chat with Brady Vernon, the managing editor at our sister site House of Sparky, and he was kind enough to answer some questions.
1. Consider me a hater, but while Arizona State’s 5-2 start is impressive, I can’t help but look at their schedule so far and consider that a bit of a mirage. Is this team for real, or have they been aided by a favorable schedule?
BV: The Sun Devils are far from an elite team, that’s easy to say. But I certainly believe they can think they can still finish with 8-9 wins. Herm Edwards likes trying to make sure that he can enter the fourth quarter in a one possession game. There are games that work out well, but sometimes I think it backfires and makes games look closer than others. I don’t think they’re a top 15 team at this point, by any means. However, 25-30ish range seems about right.
2. UCLA fans are familiar with Jayden Daniels, with Chip Kelly personally trying to recruit him to the Bruins before he ultimately chose ASU. How has he performed this year?
BV: Let’s throw out the Utah game for a lot of factors. Daniels has looked far from a true freshman, he’d done what has been asked of him and a little more. The numbers may not look great, but I think that’s because the offensive line, which is also starting two true freshmen makes it tough for him at times. There are points I believe offensive coordinator Rob Likens and Daniels himself are too conservative. Daniels shows flashes of being that X-Factor quarterback that can take over a game when asked to, but I feel as if he just hasn’t been opened up to that opportunity.
3. ASU’s defense has been excellent this year, ranking 22nd in SP+. What aspect of the defense is most likely to give UCLA fits?
BV: The secondary. Kobe Williams and Chase Lucas have been pretty impressive throughout this year at the cornerback positions, that’s expected as a pair of three-year starters. Even former USC five-star recruit Jack Jones has showed good plays despite not touching a football field in over a year before joining the program. The safeties are deep as well, Aashari Crosswell has been the most consistent of them all and seems the most likely to create a turnover on Saturday. Cam Phillips, Willie Harts, Evans Fields can all make plays as well.
4. What’s your prediction for this game?
BV: The Utah loss seemed to leave a very poor taste in the Sun Devils mouth. And they really want to bounce back. I expect a lot of Eno Benjamin and for the Sun Devils to make it another physical game and control time of possession. I’ll also just make a random prediction that the defense gets a score as well.
ASU wins 27-14.
5. In our roundtables, our last question is called the Extra Point, where the writers get to talk about whatever they want. So it’s only fair to extend that to you so: here’s the Extra Point - Sound off!
BV: I guess I’ll use this stage to just rant about everyone making fun of the Pac-12. If Oregon doesn’t choke to Auburn, a game I’m sure the Ducks probably win 9 of 10 times if played again and if the Ducks don’t go extra conservative when they did. Utah is a pretty good team as well that, again, if played again, probably doesn’t lose to USC and that defense doesn’t give up 30 a second time. The ACC is bailed out because of Clemson despite its own share of struggles this year. But the entire Coastal division over there is an absolute mess. Then, the other division is basically Clemson and Wake Forest. I’m not saying Oregon or Utah beat Clemson with full confidence, I think it’d probably be closer than the national consensus believes. Although, I’m pretty certain both the Ducks and the Utes could beat Wake Forest, a team that gave up 62 points to Louisville and its backup quarterback, on a neutral site. The Pac-12 joke gets pretty old and I think the conference is its own worst enemy when it comes to this public perception because of exposure.
Again, thanks to Brady Vernon for taking the time to answer to answer our questions. Head on over to House of Sparky to get a better understanding of the game from a Sun Devil perspective, and to read our answers to their questions.