Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruins at Arizona State Sun Devils
How will the quarterbacks for both teams fare? Will the Bruins' rushing attack continue to haunt its opponents?
Good morning. Welcome to this week’s Pregame Guesses. Last week, the Bruins handled the Arizona Wildcats, 27-10, cruising in the second half after outscoring the ‘Cats 17-0 in the second quarter. Although Arizona lost its starting quarterback Grant Gunnell on their first offensive play, which, no doubt, factored into the victory, the main culprit responsible for the Wildcats’ demise was the UCLA rushing attack, which churned out 281 yards on 56 carries with two touchdowns. More on UCLA’s rushing attack below . . . .
Last week, in response to UCLA’s turnover problem, the music selection was the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ hit single “Give It Away.” The reverse jinx worked, as the Bruins did not turn over the football all game, while forcing Arizona backup quarterback Will Plummer to throw two interceptions, the second time all season that UCLA was on the plus-side of its turnover ratio.
Let’s see if the reverse mojo continues to work this week. UCLA QBs Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Chase Griffin are a combined 65 for 117 in passing, a .555 passing completion percentage. That puts the Bruins in the bottom quarter of the NCAA. This week, the reverse mojo experiment will be courtesy of another L.A. band, an iconic punk outfit that has been around for over four decades, Bad Religion. The song is “Incomplete,” off their 1994 album, “Stranger Than Fiction”:
Hopefully, the reverse mojo works and UCLA can complete more passes versus the Sun Devils.
Here’s another couple of fun facts: Bad Religion co-founder and lead singer Greg Graffin obtained his Bachelor’s degree (‘85) and his Master’s degree (‘90) from UCLA! That’s right, he’s a Bruin! He even taught Life Science 1 at UCLA back in the aughts!
On to the guesses . . . .
The first PGG this week will follow up on UCLA’s passing completion issue, as well as the quarterback position, in general. Thompson-Robinson actually has a lower completion percentage of the two QBs who have taken snaps for the Bruins this season, completing 34 passes on 66 attempts, for a .515 completion percentage. Griffin has completed 31 of 51 attempts, a .607 percentage. Does UCLA have a quarterback controversy? DTR definitely gives the Bruins another dimension with his legs and his downfield throwing ability, but Griffin is the more accurate passer of the two. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: Who will start under center for UCLA? Predict the number of attempts and completions that person will record against the Sun Devils (NOTE: in its only game so far this season, Arizona State allowed Southern Cal quarterback Kedon Slovis to complete 40 of 55 passes, a .727 completion percentage).
Will the Bruins be able to stop—or limit—Arizona State’s dual threat quarterback, sophomore Jayden Daniels? Daniels was 11 of 23 for 134 yards passing versus the Trojans, while also racking up 111 rushing yards on 11 carries. He threw for one touchdown, but was not able to find the end zone with his legs. The Bruins have always had issues with dual-threat QBs and, although UCLA prevailed over the Sun Devils last season, Daniels had a nice day, going 20 of 29 through the air for 267 yards, with three passing touchdowns and no picks. He also ran 13 times for 67 yards and another touchdown. The Bruin defense appears to be more stout this season, but they have yet to face a threat like Daniels. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: Predict Daniels’ stat line versus UCLA (passing completions, passing attempts, passing yards, passing touchdowns, rushing attempts, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns)
I touched on UCLA’s rushing attack in the open. No matter who takes snaps for the Bruins on Saturday, the Bruins’ up-tempo rushing attack will surely feature in the game. Demetric Felton is crushing it, gaining 537 yards on 101 carries, with four touchdowns. If the Bruins can make it to a bowl game, he has an opportunity to break the 1,000-yard threshold in only seven games. Felton averages 5.3 yards per carry. Grad transfer Brittain Brown has been a great change-of-pace back, carrying the rock 39 times for 196 yards, a 5.0 yards per carry average. While Felton is the speedier and shiftier of the two, Brown has more size and power. Case in point: Brown has not lost yardage on any of this carries this season. Of the 281 rushing yards on 56 carries UCLA racked up versus Arizona, Felton and Brown collectively accounted for 278 of those yards on 48 carries. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: Predict the number of carries, rushing yards, and touchdowns for both Felton and Brown versus Arizona State.
After dropping its first game versus Southern Cal on November 7th, Arizona State has had its last three games cancelled due to COVID-19. BONUS GUESS: Will this game even be played? (Let’s hope so.)
Another week of Pregame Guesses is in the books. Make your selections, and give us any other feedback about the Bruins or this column, in the comment section.