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Pregame Guesses: UCLA Football Hosts Arizona State Sun Devils

Can the Bruins win their first home game of the 2019 campaign? How will Joshua Kelley do after his monster game last week? Can UCLA stop ASU’s rush? Who wins the turnover battle? Does that team also win the game?

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at UCLA
UCLA’s senior running back, Joshua Kelley
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The UCLA Bruins football team (2-5, 2-2 Pac-12) is coming off a much needed win against the Stanford Cardinal, the program’s first victory over Stanford since 2008, and the Bruins’ first win in Palo Alto since 2007.

To give you an idea of how long ago that was, Ben Olson was UCLA’s QB in that September, 2007 win at The Farm. Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” was the #1 song on the Billboard Charts. Judd Apatow’s Superbad was #1 at the box office and a few weeks earlier, Transformers (the first one with Megan Fox and Shia LaBeouf) was the #1 box office hit. Ancient freaking history!

I will be the first to admit that, so far this season, the tenor of the PGG songs has been, understandably IMO, dark and depressing. Frankly, it is a reflection of the 2019 season so far. I will not, however, pass up an opportunity to celebrate beating The Tree, something UCLA has not done in such a long, long time. So this week we are going with an upbeat song we’ll should have been singing last Thursday night, Ziggy Marley’s “Conscious Party.”

Everyone is happy tonight . . .

Released in 1988, “Tomorrow People” was the big hit off this album, but I always like the “Conscious Party” title track better. You can never go wrong with good reggae to get you in a happy mood.

Let’s hope UCLA can send its fans some more happy vibes this weekend at the Rose Bowl.

UCLA’s senior running back Joshua Kelley had his best game of his 2019 season last Thursday night versus Stanford. Kelley carries the ball 18 times for 176 yards and a touchdown, averaging a 9.8 yards per carry. Kelley’s efforts toting the rock opened up the passing game as well as DTR’s running game, both off designed runs and QB scrambles. When Joshua Kelley is running the ball well, he makes the UCLA offense function so much more effectively.

Unfortunately for UCLA, Arizona State has one of the top rushing defenses in the country, ranked number 18 and only conceding 100.1 yards per game on the ground to opposing offenses. Is this the case of the immovable object meeting the unstoppable force? We will see.

PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: How many yards will Joshua Kelley rack up against the Sun Devil defense.

Arizona State is not a great rushing team. They are only ranked 100 in the nation, and average only 131 yards per game on the ground. Individually, Eno Benjamin is about the only player who has contributed significantly on the ground for the Sun Devils. He has 633 yards on the season on 140 carries. The rest of the team only has 284 yards rushing combined.

Although Stanford was limited due to its QB play and injuries on the offensive line last Thursday night, UCLA did a much better job tacking the ball carrier than it has done previously this season. Has the Bruin rushing D turner a corner?

PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: Predict the number of total rushing yards for Arizona State.

Another factor that could impact the game Saturday is turnovers. UCLA is -2 in turnover margin on the year, taking the ball away nine times, but giving it up eleven times. In the Stanford win, UCLA recovered a Stanford fumble, but DTR threw a pick, for an even turnover margin. In the Wazzu win, UCLA took the ball away six times and only gave it up once.

That means in UCLA’s five losses, they only took the ball away twice, while turning the ball over nine times.

Arizona State is +5 in turnover margin on the season, tied for #19 in the nation. The Sun Devils have eleven takeways, while only turning the ball over six times. Interestingly, in their 21-3 loss to Utah last weekend, Arizona State won the turnover battle, 4-2, but still suffered the convincing loss. PGG #3 is a two parter.

PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: Who wins the turnover battle on Saturday? And does that team win the game?

The Bruins are back home at the Rose Bowl this week. The temperatures should be nice for a Saturday game in Los Angeles, after the recent heat. It should be a nice day to take in a UCLA football game, especially in what could be a winnable home game coming off a win against Stanford to get the monkey off of UCLA’s back.

BONUS GUESS: Predict the attendance at the Rose Bowl tomorrow.

That’s all for this week’s Pregame Guesses, folks. Fire away with your answers in the comment section.

Go Bruins!