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Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruins v. Arizona State Sun Devils

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Which big players will have bigger games? Paul Perkins and Nate Starks? Or D.J. Foster and Demario Richard? How will Josh Rosen perform? The students are back . . . will they come? All of this and some classic road trip music in this week's Pregame Guesses.

UCLA's Paul Perkins
UCLA's Paul Perkins
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

After a big win on the road over the Arizona Wildcats, the UCLA Bruins football team returns to Pasadena tomorrow to host the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Sun Devils, to some extent, have underperformed this season at 2-2, although their losses have been to solid opponents, in Texas A&M and Southern Cal. Mike Bercovici has already declared that this is a must win for the Sun Devils, so you can expect them to come out swinging. The Bruins have the talent advantage, and are favored, but need to avoid a letdown against a hungry ASU team out to make a statement.

***

I've always kinda liked ASU's football team. When I was at UCLA, in the late 80s and early 90s, UCLA never lost to ASU, and the Sun Devils were always a notch below the Bruins, almost always bowl eligible and in the middle of the PAC 10. The Bruins only played Arizona State in three of the years of my five year plan, winning all three times: 1987 (Aikman prevails in Tempe), 1989 (the 3-7-1 Bruins somehow manage a convincing win at home, 33-14), and 1991(Tommy Maddox over the Sun Devils, 21-16, in a nail biter in Tempe). UCLA and ASU did not meet in 1988 or 1990.

Save for 1988 (when I could not afford to do so for academic reasons), my friends and I would road trip to the NorCal games. Stanford in 1987 (49-0, take than John Lynch), Stanford again in 1989 (another win), and Berkeley in 1990 (tough loss). When 1991 rolled around, we voted against going to Stanford a third time. "How about Tempe?" we thought. Sold.

And what a memorable senior trip it was. Nice win by the Bruins, old enough to enjoy the fruits of Mill Avenue, and braved a late season monsoon that flooded the desert.

"Orlando" you say. "Enough with the nostalgia. Where are you going with all this?"

OK. Here it is.

During that trip, there was a musical constant. In fact, in other forays my friends and I would make into or through the desert (hiking, Vegas, Mammoth, San Felipe, whatever), there was always that same musical constant. Maybe it is because the album is such a great road tripping album, and we happened to drive in the desert a fair amount. For whatever reason, when I listen to the album now, especially when I listen to it all the way through, it reminds me of the desert, road-tripping in or through the desert, and most prominently, that long weekend in Tempe twenty-four years ago back in October of 1991. The entire album is epic, but I am selecting the first track, which kicks off the album in ass-kicking fashion. Here is "So Far Away" by Social Distortion, off their self-titled third album, released in 1990:

The album was a staple of the cassettes found in any one of my or my friend's cars in the early 90s. They are a great L.A. band (O.K., they were actually formed in Fullerton in the late 70s). L.A.'s KROQ and the "Rodney on the Rock" show on Sunday nights were instrumental in getting them discovered, until they really broke through with their 1990 release. Social Distortion even played a free lunchtime concert in 1988 on that little concrete platform by the Men's Gym, across from Ackerman Union. I fell in love with them then, and my fondness for them grew with the self-titled album. They say that old music helps you to remember joys of the past that were occurring when that music was all the rage. Well, listening to Social Distortion takes me back to my UCLA days, and especially that ASU road trip. And it feels good.

***

If you checked out my preview of the Arizona State offense, or if you have watched the Sun Devils this season, you already know that D.J. Foster, the ASU player who gained over 1,000 yards at running back last season, has been moved to wide receiver. Foster is a dynamic player, and ASU will find creative ways to get the ball to him through the air and on the ground. Foster currently has 300 yards rushing and receiving. ASU's featured running back is now Demario Richard, who has 429 yards rushing and 185 yards receiving, Between Foster and Richard, they have a total of 914 yards from scrimmage. UCLA's Paul Perkins will run behind a stout offensive line, going against an inexperienced ASU defensive line, but with strong linebacker support. Perkins has 514 yards rushing and 99 yards receiving. Nate Starks, Perkins' back up, has 144 yards rushing and 11 yards receiving (but in only 3 games). Between them, Perkins and Starks have a total of 758 yards from scrimmage. PREGAME GUESS #1: Who will gain more total yards tomorrow? D.J. Foster and Demario Richard or Paul Perkins and Nate Starks?

Arizona State figures to try to copy BYU's game plan on defense, and blitz the heck out of Josh Rosen, seeking to force freshman mistakes. Rosen wasn't sacked by BYU, but threw 3 INTs in that game. Last week, against Arizona, Rosen was sacked twice on consecutive plays, his only sacks of the year. How will Josh fare against the proverbial kitchen sink that Arizona State figures to throw at him? PREGAME GUESS #2: Which number will be higher, the total number of touchdown passes thrown by Josh Rosen or the combined number of times he may be sacked PLUS the number of interceptions he may throw PLUS the number of fumbles he may lose that are recovered by ASU.

This is the first UCLA home game since students returned for Fall Quarter. Here are the attendance numbers during the Mora era for the first home game after the students return:

Date

Time

Opponent

Attendance

October 13, 2012

3:00 p.m.

Utah

66,303

October 12, 2013

7:30 p.m.

Cal

84,272

October 4, 2014

7:30 p.m.

Utah

74,329

I think fans were cautious in attending in 2012. We had just dropped 2 of 3 to Oregon State and Cal (Cal destroyed us). 66,000 plus is low, but not too bad in Mora's first year. The 84,000 plus for Cal in 2013 is excellent, but Cal is a bigger rival than Utah. Also, UCLA was undefeated at the time of the Cal game. The drop to 74,000 plus for Utah in 2014 is a little puzzling. UCLA was undefeated going into that game, having just destroyed ASU on the road. 74,000 plus is certainly not a bad crowd, but then again the Utah rivalry is just not close to the historic rivalry with Cal. I attribute the 10,000 difference to the quality of the rivalry.

So, given that history, how many will show up at the Rose Bowl tomorrow? The Arizona State rivalry is stronger than Utah, but not as strong as Cal. For the students, there is also the novelty of Rosen. The Bruins could use loud and supportive crowds this season, as they didn't fare too well in Pasadena last season, going 2-3 in conference at home. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER 3: I predict an announced crowd of 80,000. Higher or lower?

BONUS PREGAME GUESS: One of the recruits that UCLA is hosting this weekend will commit this weekend to play football for the Bruins. True or False?

I hope that you enjoyed these Pregame Guesses. List your answers or any comments you might have in the thread below.

To all who are traveling to the Rose Bowl on Saturday, have a safe and great time! Try to listen to some Social D on the golf course while you toss around the pigskin. It’ll get you fired up for the game!

Go Bruins!!!