Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruins at Arizona Wildcats
Can UCLA passing defense bounce back after a poor showing? Will UCLA take advantage of Arizona's relative lack of a ground game? Who wins the turnover battle?
The UCLA Bruin football team (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) returns to action tomorrow versus the Arizona Wildcats (0-4, 0-1 Pac-12). The Bruins will play their second road game of the season, this time in Tucson with a 7:30 pm PT kickoff.
The Bruins, of course, are coming off a terrible performance versus Arizona State at the Rose Bowl. The UCLA secondary was torched by Jayden Daniels and the Sun Devil passing game, giving up multiple big plays when the defense gambled and lost.
Now, the Bruins will face former Bruin offensive coordinator (and interim head coach for two games) Jedd Fisch, who took over at UCLA after Jim L. Mora was fired in 2017. Fisch’s Wildcats are winless through four games this season. A loss to a win-less team would turn up the heat on UCLA’s head coach, Chip Kelly.
When my daughter was younger, she would sometimes hold her frustrations inside. My wife taught her something she called “scream therapy.” When my daughter was mad and needed to vent, my wife would encourage my daughter to just scream at the top of her lungs. It helped and made her feel better.
I am pissed. I don’t necessarily mind losing to Arizona State. It’s the manner in which the Bruins lost. Totally out-schemed and out-coached on defense with large cushions given to receivers and still allowing the big play. It’s as if UCLA defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro doesn’t know if his guys are playing bend don’t break (i.e. cushions) or aggressive (and therefore susceptible to the big play). It is ironic.
Today’s music selection is also ironic in that the title clearly does not reflect the song itself. Plus, it is scream therapy. So, here is The Pixie’s “Tame,” off their iconic album “Doolittle”:
On to the guesses . . .
UCLA’s passing defense is third worst in the nation. Ugh. The Bruins allow 321.4 yards per game through the air. Only Georgia Southern and Memphis are worse. Aside from a bit of an improvement last season, this has been a common theme of Chip Kelly’s UCLA teams and Jerry Azzinaro’s defenses. Against the Sun Devils, the Bruins were especially bad with the “big play,” allowing four plays in excess of 45 yards, two of which went for touchdowns and the other two of which meaningfully contributed to touchdown drives.
Arizona’s passing offense is average. The Wildcats are 49th in the nation, averaging 253.5 yards per game. They’ve done this with three different quarterbacks playing under center. It appears, however, that the Wildcats have settled on Jordan McCloud, a sophomore transfer from South Florida. McCloud is 27 of 42, for 299 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions. Will the new guy step up against UCLA’s passsing defense? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: How many passing yards will Arizona gain versus the UCLA defense?
At least, UCLA’s rushing defense is good. And, against Arizona, the Bruins rushing D has a good match-up against the somewhat anemic Wildcat rushing attack. Arizona only averages 109.8 yards per game on the ground, #113 in the nation. As a team, Arizona averages only 3.3 yards per carry and only has one rushing touchdown in four games. Will this trend continue versus UCLA?
The caveat is that, in McCloud, Arizona has more of a dual-threat quarterback. Plus, they have had two weeks to scheme for the Bruins, enjoying a bye week last week. So, UCLA could see something completely different and McCloud could run wild. What do the Wildcats have to lose? The uncertainty makes for a good PGG. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: How many rushing yards and rushing touchdowns will Arizona score versus UCLA?
Arizona has lost four games this season. In three of those games, however, the Wildcats have actually out-gained their opponents. Against Oregon two weeks ago, Arizona had 435 yards to the Ducks’ 398. Why are they losing these games? Well, against Oregon, it was turnovers. The Ducks took care of the rock to the tune of zero turnovers while the Wildcats gave it up five times.
In fact, Arizona, is one of the worst teams in the country in turnover margin. Through their four games, Arizona has forced three turnovers, while turning over the ball to their opponents a total of ten times, nine of which were interceptions. The INTs are spread between the three quarterbacks, but McCloud is responsible for five of the nine picks. On the other hand, UCLA is plus three in turnovers on the season, forcing seven giveaways while only giving the ball away four times. Which team wins the turnover battle? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: Predict the number of turnovers for each team.
BONUS GUESS: Easy one here. Predict the final score. Easy, right? RIGHT?!?!?!
That’s all for me this week. Make your predictions and give us your thoughts on the game in the comment section.