Arizona football breakdown: offenses should steal show in Pasadena
UCLA running back Jonathan Franklin runs through a big hole in the first quarter for a touchdown against San Diego State at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, September 5, 2009, in Pasadena, California. (Armando Brown/Orange County Register/MCT)
UCLA and Arizona will play each other Saturday in a crucial Pac-12 South matchup. The Wildcats and Bruins are in the thick of the conference race, and both need a win to stay on pace with the Trojans.
Both offenses will have the advantage while on the field, led by balanced attacks.
Here’s how it all breaks down.
UA passing versus UCLA pass defense
The Arizona passing game is tops in the conference, averaging 354.4 yards per game, led by senior quarterback Matt Scott, who is fourth in the nation with 28.38 completions per game. The Wildcats seem to break records in the passing game every week, and Scott has rewritten the UA history books this season in completions and attempts per game. UCLA’s defense ranks seventh in the conference, allowing 258.9 yards per game.
UA rushing versus UCLA rush defense
In sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey, the Wildcats have the type of player that the entire offense could rely upon, if need be. Carey has rushed for fewer than 100 yards in only two games this season, and is third in the Pac-12, behind UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin, with 961 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Bruins’ rush defense allows an average of 157.2 yards per game. In addition to Carey, Scott rushed for more than 100 yards against USC, so look for Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez to dial up more runs than we’re used to seeing.
UCLA passing versus UA pass defense
Rodriguez has talked about the size and athletic ability of UCLA redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley, and the Bruins have enough weapons to make it a long day for Arizona’s passing defense, which is ranked last in the Pac-12. The Wildcats give up 316.4 yards per game. Hundley averages 307.1 yards per game, but don’t be surprised to see a spike in his production against the Wildcats’ woeful defense.
UCLA rushing versus UA rush defense
Seen as its worst attribute only a few games ago, the UA rush defense has improved as the season progressed. Against Arizona, the Trojans only rushed for 125 yards. UCLA has the leading rusher in the conference in Franklin, and an offense that is committed to feeding him the ball. Franklin rushes for 130.2 yards per game and is the only rusher in the conference with more than 1,000 yards.
Senior kicker John Bonano missed another field goal against USC, but has hit PAT’s consistently. Senior punter Kyle Dugandzic is fourth in the conference in yards per punt, averaging 43.9 yards, and he kicked a 70-yarder against USC that played a major role in the Trojans’ failure to score on the final drive. UCLA kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn is third in the Pac-12 with 7.4 points per game.
The Bruins also have the third best return unit in the conference, averaging 26.9 yards per game.
Both Rodriguez and UCLA head coach Jim Mora Jr. are in their first year as head coach, and each has helped to change the culture of their respective programs. After years as conference doormats and conference irrelevancy, both teams have a chance to make the Rose Bowl, and this game is a crucial one for both teams as the season draws to a close. Rodriguez and his offense have kept up with and even outgained some of the best competition in the country, but UCLA has shown it can stop opponents defensively, something that the Wildcats have struggled with.