Our staff's predictions as Arizona football enters conference play 2-1
Arizona football takes on UCLA football this evening at 7:30 p.m. Our football beat reporters Jack Cooper, Amit Syal and Austin Wales predict what will go down tonight at Arizona Stadium.
I don’t even know what to expect in this game. UCLA was 0-3 and only scored 14 points in each loss before a shocking win at Washington State, where they put up 67 points. Arizona gave up over 40 points in their first two games against Hawai’i and NAU and then only held Texas Tech to 14. This game could end up two ways: Either very high scoring or a defensive show. Coming off a bye week, though, I expect the Arizona offense to explode for over 40. JJ Taylor should be 100 percent, but even if he’s hobbled and not fully usable, expect Gary Brightwell and Bam Smith to take most of the load. Khalil Tate had his longest run of the last two seasons, which resulted in a touchdown, and Arizona engineered a 99-yard drive, in which all were run plays to put the game away.
The defense, on the other hand, looks completely different than it was during the first two games. They limited the high-powered Tech offense to only 14 points and got two turnovers. The team they’ll face in UCLA is much different than Tech though. UCLA’s quarterback, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, has a lot of the same characteristics as Tate. He’s a dual-threat quarterback that can run and throw the ball. He is only a sophomore, though, so if he makes any mistakes, expect Arizona to jump all over them. This should be a fun, high-scoring game like we expected two weeks ago, but these two teams play very similarly and can put points on the board. In the end, it’ll come down to which defense can make a big play and I expect that defense to be Arizona, especially since they lead the country in interceptions.
Prediction: Arizona 49 - UCLA 42
Arizona is coming off a huge win against Texas Tech combined with a bye week for some quality recovery time. This week, the Wildcats will take on UCLA, a team that is coming off a huge 67-63 victory against Washington State on the road in Pullman, Wash. However, the Bruins' previous three games were a different story. UCLA’s win this past weekend was the team’s first win all season, combined with the fact that Arizona has won its past two games, I would say Arizona is in a great spot heading into Saturday evening.
After a poor performance on the defensive end against the NAU Lumberjacks, Arizona seemed to have fixed that against Texas Tech. The Wildcats only let up 14 points against the Red Raiders, a team that was averaging 40+ points before playing Arizona. Head Coach Kevin Sumlin has brought up the importance of a solid defense numerous times and his team seems to have been working on that aspect.
I expect a high-scoring game this Saturday as the Wildcats take on the Bruins, but ultimately Arizona will come out victorious and grab its third win of the 2019 season.
Prediction: Arizona 42 - UCLA 35
Arizona comes into this game 2-1 after the second bye week of the season this year. This extra week of rest should be very beneficial for Arizona, as UCLA played in a wild comeback last week, beating Washington State 67-63, coming back after being down 32 points. Arizona should be very excited for this game, since they beat a very solid Texas Tech team two weeks ago. Arizona dominated up front offensively, racking up 314 yards rushing, compared to Texas Tech’s 104 yards rushing. This should bare well for the Wildcats, as UCLA’s defense isn’t solid when it comes to their rush defense. In last week’s game against WSU, we saw UCLA give up 570 yards passing as well, so we should expect to see a good balance of passing and rushing from Arizona this week.
When it comes to defense, Arizona has been playing very solid as of late, most likely related to the switch from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense. Anthony Pandy paired with Colin Schooler and Tony Fields II gives the Wildcats a different, more athletic look than before. Arizona will need to rely on the pass rush from these three this week, as quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw for 507 yards against WSU last weekend. If we see the same Arizona defense we saw two weekends ago, this game should be a good warm-up for the Wildcats for Pac-12 play.
Prediction: Arizona 35 - UCLA 14
For this week's game we asked the football reporters at The Daily Bruin for their insight as well. Take a look below.
Call me a sucker, but I'm finally feeling good about these Bruins. Sophomore Dorian Thompson-Robinson is finally living up to his potential, tossing five touchdowns and rushing for two against Washington State last week. Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate may be the most prominent dual-threat in the Pac-12, but Thompson-Robinson has finally solidified himself as a runner. Thompson-Robinson ran for 57 yards on 11 carries on Saturday, scrambling and escaping pressure better than he ever had in blue and gold. There are 22 guys on the field at a time, but for me, it's a two-man battle. Thompson-Robinson versus Tate – if both play up to their ceilings – could be one of the more entertaining quarterback battles of the season. It will be hard to top Saturday's 16 combined touchdowns by Thompson-Robinson and Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon, but the star power alone gets me extremely excited for the matchup in Tucson. Both defenses have to stay on their toes to slow the other play-making signal-caller down, but since Arizona is coming off a bye and UCLA has more momentum than ever, I'm going with the Bruins in a close one this week.
Prediction: UCLA 34 - Arizona 30
What a difference a week makes. What we saw out of the Bruins’ offense last week was everything UCLA fans have been waiting for since the arrival of Chip Kelly, and man, was it beautiful. The Bruins ripped off 50 points in just over 18 minutes of game time to erase a 32-point deficit on the road and claim their first victory of the season. It felt like every single play was ran with intent and purpose, something that wasn’t present in the first three weeks of the year. Now, do I think the offense will put up 67 points again this weekend? No, but I do think UCLA has some momentum, and that’s a good thing considering they’ll most likely need to keep things rolling on the offensive end to keep up with Tate. At his best, Tate is one of the most exciting players in the nation. The Bruins experienced that firsthand in 2017 when he shredded the UCLA defense for 230 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground en route to a 47-30 win. Arizona is also awesome on third down, ranking third in the nation with a 58.7% conversion rate. Meanwhile, UCLA’s third-down defense is atrocious, coming in at 120th in the Football Bowl Subdivision while it’s total defense is even worse at 125th. It is unlikely that the Bruins reverse that trend, but again, this game feels like it will come down to offense. Thompson-Robinson threw for over 500 yards against Washington State and he expressed in practice this week that he and Kelly are finally on the same page. Saturday’s contest is going to be a fun one, and I think UCLA will be riding its momentum and a revamped offense to a second consecutive victory.
Prediction: UCLA 34, Arizona 31
This game is going to be close. Just looking at the Bruins’ struggles in their first three games, I would say that there is no chance that UCLA would even get close to winning this matchup. But last weekend’s 67-63 upset over then-No. 19 Washington State changed what we thought was possible from this team. UCLA showed it can put up big offensive numbers when Thompson-Robinson is under pressure. While I don’t expect the Bruins to score 60-plus points again, they should be able to build on some of that momentum to score around half of that this time around. But it’s the Wildcat running game that’ll be the biggest wild card on Saturday. UCLA has struggled to defend against the rush this season, giving up 178.5 rushing yards per game on average. That wasn’t a huge issue against Washington State’s air raid offense, but Arizona is a different story. Arizona leads the conference in rushing yards per game and Tate had 129 rushing yards against Texas Tech, including an 84-yard touchdown run. The Bruins will have to find a way to contain Tate in order to have any chance of outscoring Arizona. The Bruins – especially Thompson-Robinson – will have to play to their fullest potential in order to pull off the victory. But despite some tough odds, I have faith that UCLA will take the W.
Prediction: UCLA 31, Arizona 28