The UCLA Bruins will be back in the Rose Bowl for their primetime matchup against the Washington Huskies after UCLA defeated Arizona on the road 31-26. The Bruins come into the matchup at 7-2 (4-2 in the Pac-12), while the Huskies are no slouches themselves at 6-3 (3-3 in the Pac-12).
Earlier this season, Washington had the honor (I wouldn't call it that personally) of having played possibly the toughest three game slate of any football program in the NCAA. In a span of 14 days, the Huskies played at Stanford, home against the Oregon Ducks and in Tempe against Arizona State. They lost those 3 games by a combined 52 points and that turned a 4-0 team creeping towards the Top 10 into a after thought in the Pac-12. The Bruins have absolutely no excuse for overlooking the Huskies, as Washington has the best offense that UCLA has faced or will face this season outside of Oregon.
The Huskies have scored 100 points and racked up over 1200 yards in two games following that three game slate. Granted those two games were against Colorado and UC Berkeley, but UCLA only managed 82 against those two teams. Regardless, looking at the raw data for the Huskies is impressive. Their total offense ranks 10th in the NCAA at 516 yards per game and they score 37.2 points per game (just 0.6 points per game ahead of UCLA).
It is also one of the most effectively balanced offenses in the country, ranking 25th in passing offense (287 yards per game) and 17th in rushing offense (229 yards per game). Overall, the numbers between UCLA and Washington are eerily similar. Seriously, look at this article and tell me I'm wrong. Redzone numbers (88.4% for UCLA to 86% for UW), penalties (77 yards to 75), scoring offense and defense, turnover margin (+5 for both), third down percentage on offense (51.8 to 50.7). These two teams are mirror images statistically, but look far different as far as composition goes.
Let's take a closer look at the rushing and passing games for the Huskies.
Bishop Sankey has been the second best running back in the Pac-12 all season and will be another tough test for the front-seven of UCLA after having Ka'Deem Carey last week. He's rushed for 1305 yards on the season (5.88 YPC) and scored 13 touchdowns. Sankey is a pretty similar size to Carey at 5'10" 203 pounds, but is built slighter and more of an explosive runner where Carey is a bruiser.
He is backed up by some talented players in Dwayne Washington and Jesse Callier, but Sankey will get almost every carry barring something very peculiar. He's the workhorse. Washington has fullbacks and uses traditional I-back formations, so expect to see UCLA's base defense more than usual on Friday night. The defensive lineman will have more reps, which is good considering how well the group has played splitting fewer reps.
The offensive line he runs behind is made up of four juniors and a sophomore left guard. The group of Micah Hattchie (6'5", 305), Dexter Charles (6'4", 289), Mike Criste (6'5", 306), Colin Tanigawa (6'3", 275) and Ben Riva (6'6" 300) started against Colorado, so I'd expect the same collection of players on the field Saturday.
Keith Price is the figurehead of the Huskies' offense, despite a great deal of clamoring for Sankey. The Huskies go as Price goes and the vast majority of the season he has gone well. So far in 2013, Price has completed 65.4% of his passes (191-292) for 2481 yards and thrown 18 touchdown passes and just 4 interceptions.
His WR core is made up of Jaydon Mickens (50 catches for 614 yards and 4 TDs), Kevin Smith (35 catches for 559 yards and 3 TDs) and Kasen Williams (29 catches for 421 yards and 1 TD) and John Ross (15 catches for 201 yards and 1 TD). All four are different sized threats. Williams is the big target at 6'2", 212, Mickens and Ross are similarly built at roughly 5'11" and 170 pounds each, while Smith is a stocky and physical WR at 5'11" but weighing 214 pounds. Marvin Hall started last week against Colorado, but has just 92 yards in 6 games. This is one of the better groups in the Pac-12 and UCLA's secondary will once again need to play at a high level, as UW will test their deep coverage skills and tackling ability.
Any WR takes a backseat to arguably the best TE prospect in the country in Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Seferian-Jenkins is impressively built at 6'6" 276 pounds but is an elite athlete instead of just a huge frame and great hands like Joseph Fauria. His numbers seem a bit underwhelming at 23 catches for 306 yards and 5 TDs, but he's had to deal with the same level of scheming that Anthony Barr faces on defense. I'll be keeping a very close eye on the matchup of Seferian-Jenkins against the LB core. I'm interested to see how they handle a threat like him. Barr would seems like the logical choice, as Myles Jack would be at a significant size disadvantage; but UCLA has done a good job of containing #1 options under Lou Spanos so I am optimistic. If it does end up as a lot Barr vs. Seferian-Jenkins in coverage, NFL scouts will be salivating because matchups like that are rare in college.
The only real flaw in their passing game is pass blocking, having allowed 24 sacks (96th in the NCAA, 10th in the Pac-12) and nearly 7 TFLs allowed per game. This is a difficult matchup across the board for UCLA's defense and a great test for Lou Spanos and crew.
Until Friday night, Go Bruins!