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Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruins Football at Arizona State

Can UCLA get to the QB against ASU’s excellent pass protection? Will Krys Barnes bounce back from a poor game? Can UCLA (read: Joshua Kelley) exploit an average Sun Devil rushing defense?

UCLA v California
More of this, please.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Welcome to the tenth edition of Pregame Guesses in this trying 2018 UCLA Bruins football season. After giving away the game at Oregon because of miscue after miscue, the Bruins (2-7, 2-4 Pac-12) now head to Tempe to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils.

In probably the surprise story of the Pac-12, Arizona State is sitting at 5-4, 3-3 in conference, and winners of two straight games. I think that many fans earlier this season though that this game was one that the Bruins could count on in the “W” column. Now, I am not so sure as head coach Herm Edwards has done what many thought he could not do and appears to have the Sun Devils headed in the right direction.

Bruin fans, on the other hand, have not seen the improvement they hoped for as the season progressed, regressing since the win at UC Berkeley. And, with recruting lagging at #68 in the nation, behind the likes of Vanderbilt, Miami of Ohio, and East Carolina, to name a few, UCLA supporters are feeling low.

After two weeks of two vastly different types of “instrumentals,” this week we will actually be playing a song with lyrics!

And...this will be the first “repeat” song we have played in my four years of writing this column. After the Bruin Clown Show on special teams in Eugene, there was just one song on my mind and, once I’d set my mind to using it this week, I had a sneaky feeling that I’d used it in this article before. I looked back in the archives and I was right (I’m approaching geezer status and don’t trust my memory like I used too).

Last time, the selection was made after the Bruins lost to Arizona State in 2016. That dropped UCLA to 3-3, 1-2 in the Pac-12. This time, we’ll play the same song going into the ASU game sitting at 2-7.

By the way, that 3-3 record doesn’t sound so bad now does it?

Was last time I used the song, with the Bruins sitting at 3-3, hyperbole? Or are the Bruins now at rock bottom? Or both?

Who knows. All I know that, when I think about UCLA football, I’m feeling low. So here, for the second time ever in this article, is Cracker’s 1993 hit single, “Low” (turn this one up loud):

“Hey...don’t ya want to to down, like some choking cosmonaut!”

Hahahaha. Great lyric, but...not so much.

I’d like to go up. Like maybe with a win or two in our last three, please.

Let’s make some guesses.

UCLA has trouble sacking the quarterback.

After the Cinncinati game, where it seemed like UCLA was consistently getting pressure on the QB (and recorded four sacks), and with the exception of the UC Berkeley game, in which UCLA sacked the QB three times, UCLA has not sacked the QB with regularity. The loss of Jaelan Phillips did not help.

UCLA has 13 total sacks on the season (seven of which were in the Cincy and UC Berkeley games). Those 14 sacks tie UCLA with Rutgers for #111 in the nation.

Arizona State, on the other hand, is one of the best teams in the land at protecting its QB, Manny Wilkins. ASU is #14 in the country in sacks allowed, permitting opponents’ defenses only 10 sacks on the season

This match-up does not bode well for the Bruins.

PREGAME GUESS NUMBER 1: Predict the number of sacks that the UCLA defense records against Arizona State tomorrow.

Krys Barnes had one of his worst games in a UCLA uniform at Oregon last week. Your best middle linebacker should never finish the game with just two tackles. Barnes was averaging almost seven tackles a game going into the Oregon contest. Although UCLA “only” missed six tackles according to Head Coach Chip Kelly, one was a miscue for the ages.

With the score 7-0 Ducks, Oregon lined up for a field goal on 4th and 10 from UCLA’s 29 yard line. The Ducks called the fake but Barnes had a clear line to stop the Oregon ball carrier, Jacob Breeland, short of the line of gain. He failed miserably, allowing Breeland to run free all the way to the UCLA one-yard line. Oregon punched it in for seven on the next play.

Barnes has to play better for UCLA to have a change in any of its remaining games.

PREGAME GUESS NUMBER 2: How many tackles will Krys Barnes have against Arizona State?

After all the doom and gloom of the previous two guesses, let’s talk positives for this third guess. The offensive line is gelling nicely, especially in run blocking, allowing junior running back Joshua Kelley to rush for over 100 yards in five of his last six games. The one where he didn’t was against Utah’s tough rushing defense and he still racked up 90 yards.

The Sun Devils’ rushing defense is average, at #61 in the nation, giving up 158.7 yards per game. Is this a match up that UCLA can exploit? As so many teams have done to them in the past few years, should UCLA just rush the ball 80% (or more) of the time, trying to control the clock, and exploiting what appears (on paper) to be a favorable match-up running the ball?

PREGAME GUESS NUMBER 3: How many rushing attempts will Joshua Kelley have against the Sun Devils and how many rushing yards will he gain?

That’s it for this week, readers. Make your guesses in the comment section below.

Go Bruins!!!