Pregame Guesses: #20 UCLA Bruins Host Arizona State Sun Devils
How will UCLA's offense fare versus the highly-regarded Sun Devil defense? Can UCLA stop Jayden Daniels? Let's talk about Kyle Philips.
Last week’s road victory by the UCLA Bruin football team (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) over the Stanford Cardinal was a sweet balm to relieve the angst from the preceding week’s heartbreaking loss to Fresno State. Can the Bruins build on that win as they return to the Rose Bowl to face, perhaps, their toughest challenge in the Pac-12 South, the Arizona State Sun Devils (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12)? This will be an exciting match-up tomorow night at the Rose Bowl.
I am going with a little word play today with the musical selection since we are playing the Sun Devils. If “The Devil Went Down to Phoenix” was a song, instead of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” I’d choose that this week. We do play UGA in Athens in 2026, so maybe then, although the Devil reference wouldn’t make much sense.
Although there is a petition to change the name of the Sun Devil mascot floating around in Tempe (and cyberspace), I have always been a fan of the “Sun Devils” mascot. It is one of the most unique mascots in college football. Since the petition is seeking to change the name to Sun Angels, my song choice almost selects itself. With a refrain of “C’mon Lil’ Devil, be my little Angel,” today’s selection is an easy one. The tune is “Lil’ Devil” by The Cult, off their outstanding 1987 album, “Electric.”
I’ll admit, I loved this song since it came out in 1987, a few months before I matriculated to UCLA. The entire album sounds more like a mid-70s classic rock album than one in the synthesizer-driven mid-eighties. Maybe it is the syrupy guitar solos. It was a stark departure from The Cult’s previous offering, the more gothic (but also excellent) “Love.” Based on the number of times I listened to “Electric” during my time at UCLA, it never fails to evoke my halcyon days in Westwood. And that is most definitely a good thing.
On to the guesses . . .
Through four games, it appears that Arizona State has a very good defense. The Sun Devils are #6 in the nation in total defense, allowing opposing teams an average of just 247.5 yards per game. Breaking it down further, the strength of ASU’s defense is the pass defense. The Sun Devils allow only 124.2 yards per game through the air, good for #5 in the nation. Against the run, Arizona State is slightly above average, allowing 123.2 yards per game on the ground, #51 in the nation. So, that having been said, the match-up favors the Bruins rushing the football. But the Bruins are best when the passing game opens up the running game. How will Arizona State’s proficiency at defending the pass affect the Bruins’ offense? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: Predict the number of passing yards and the number of rushing yards that the UCLA offense will gain versus the Sun Devils (for reference, the Bruins are averaging 234.2 passing yards per game and 198.3 rushing yards per game so far this season).
Arizona State is led by junior quarterback, Jayden Daniels. Daniels is the type of dual threat quarterback that has given UCLA fits in the past. This season, Daniels has completed 69 passes on 95 attempts, a completion rate of over 70%, for 808 yards and two touchdowns along with three interceptions. On the ground, Daniels is second on ASU in rushing yards, with 36 carries for 248 yards and two touchdowns. UCLA cannot allow Daniels to beat them. In the 27-17 loss to BYU, the Cougars only allowed Daniels to rush for eight yards on ten attempts. Although Daniels passed for 265 yards in that game, BYU’s ability to severely limit Daniels on the ground was a key to a Cougar victory. Can UCLA follow BYU’s lead and do the same? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: Predict Jayden Daniels’ rushing yard totals versus UCLA.
I want to talk about Kyle Philips. The junior wide receiver is quietly having himself a season with 15 receptions for 294 yards and five touchdowns through four games. He also has returned four punts for 96 yards, an average of 24 yards per punt return. For some reason, Philips is not listed on the NCAA’s statistics site under punt returns but, if he was, he would lead the nation in average yards per return. I thought that perhaps he did not have the necessary minimum number of returns, but there are several guys on the list with only four returns, although each has only played three games. So, maybe, it is because his punt returns to games played ratio (which seems like a lame way to determine the minimum) is not sufficient. In any event, Philips has been a game changer for the Bruins so far this season. Will that continue tomorrow? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: Predict Kyle Philips’ number of receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, punt returns, punt return yards, and punt return touchdowns.
BONUS GUESS: Predict the attendance at the Rose Bowl. It is a night game and the students are back. No excuses.
Let us know your predictions and other thoughts in the comment thread.