Nov 23, 2013; Pasadena, CA, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils running back Marion Grice (1) tries to run past UCLA Bruins safety Randall Goforth (3) during second quarter action at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Well, here we are. The Sun Devils face their biggest test of the season to this point when the UCLA Bruins come to Tempe tonight. The Bruins will be facing a blackout by the fans in Sun Devil Stadium as they play in arguably the most hostile environment they’ve faced this year. The last two years have determined the winner of the Pac-12 South Division and this game could have a large say in that conversation this year. ASU came out on top last year thanks to a blazing hot first half start but there is a ton of intrigue with this game. Who’s playing? Who’s sitting? What will this game say about both teams moving forward? These are just some of the questions fans are asking leading up to the game of the weekend in college football. That said, let’s take a look at how the Bruins will match up against the Sun Devils tonight.
ASU Offense vs. UCLA Defense
For ASU, the offense comes down to these four words: In Mike We Trust. Jaelen Strong and D.J. Foster will continue to be the go-to playmakers for this ASU offense but with Taylor Kelly out for the foreseeable future, backup Mike Bercovici will be making his first career start tonight. Bercovici has a lot of support coming in from his coaches, teammates, and even current NFL quarterbacks. He will be the tipping point going up against a UCLA defense that has been very inconsistent the first month of the season. One week, they scored three defensive touchdowns against Virginia. The next week, UCLA gave up 35 to Memphis! Despite the inconsistencies, the linebackers will be key as Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks lead the way on defense. Kendricks has already piled up 37 tackles and has a touchdown while Jack is looking to build on a breakout freshman year. The defensive front of Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes could also present some challenges for the ASU offensive line. With Kelly not playing, look for UCLA’s defense to get pressure on Bercovci early and try to make his life as uncomfortable as possible for 60 minutes.
ASU Defense vs. UCLA Offense
Will he or won’t he play? That’s the big question concerning star quarterback Brett Hundley for the Bruins. As of today, Jim Mora has said that Hundley remains a game time decision, while Todd Graham has been planning that Hundley will start on Thursday night. Regardless of who’s at quarterback, the Bruins will also be looking to find some consistency of their own on that side of the ball. UCLA will have running back, Paul Perkins (63 car., 304 yds., 2TD), and receiver, Jordan Payton (19 rec., 266 yds., 1 TD), as go to options which should help against a Sun Devil defense that will face its toughest test of the year. While they’ve shown flashes of great play, ASU has been susceptible to the big gain as well. Jordan Simone has been a breakout player the last couple of weeks at the safety spot as he and Damarious Randall will have to be ready to do whatever it takes to keep the Sun Devils in this one.
This game serves as a benchmark for both teams and it carries a lot of weight. The Sun Devils have a tough road ahead after this, with games against USC and Stanford to follow this matchup. It will be a tight contest throughout but ASU at home with the playmakers they have will prove to be just enough to win a classic in Sun Devil Stadium.
Arizona State 34, UCLA 30
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