ASU vs. UCLA: Game predictions

Ralph Freso

Our staff is split right down the middle this week. Find out who picked Arizona State and who tabbed UCLA to come away victorious.

Arizona State and UCLA will duke it out in the Rose Bowl on Saturday for the right to sit atop the Pac-12 South standings. A win for the Sun Devils would clinch a division title while a victory for the Bruins would put UCLA in the driver's seat heading into the season's final week.

Staff Predictions

Nick Krueger: Arizona State 38, UCLA 35

Well folks, this is it. Win and the Sun Devils are Pac-12 South champions, lose and things get very interesting heading into rivalry week. This program has waited too long and Todd Graham has worked too hard for this program not to win this game. I certainly would not go as far to say it's destiny, I would say the Sun Devils deserve to win this game but that doesn't mean they will either. I've said already this week it will come down to the play of Anthony Barr and Myles Jack against the ASU running game and offensive line. As Todd Graham said earlier this week, this team has been preparing all year for this game. I think Graham will have the players mentally prepared and I will be in shock if ASU comes out playing like deer in the headlights.

If ASU can establish the ground game in the early going and free up some deep throws, ASU will have success. Defensively, getting pressure on Brett Hundley will be key. This game will be a shootout, possibly an "instant classic," and come down to the last possession as it rightfully should. I think the Sun Devils may have finally inherited the "clutch gene" and are ready to put this program back on the map. It's important to remember that a loss is not the end of the world but it would certainly be nice to play U of A without anything on the line.

Bold prediction: Sun Devils score at least 14 points off UCLA turnovers, but also turn the ball over at least twice themselves.

Cody Ulm: UCLA 41, ASU 37

I predicted that Arizona State would lose to UCLA in the preseason and I'm sticking to my guns. That said, I do expect the Devils to produce an inspired performance. But I just don't believe Arizona State is capable of beating UCLA at its best, especially on the road.

The Bruins' pass rush is going to give Arizona State's offense fits. Outside of when they got the good fortune of facing off against Washington State's sorry excuse for a defense, the Sun Devil offensive line has yet to hold their own for a full 60 minutes on the road. Making matters all the more frightening is that UCLA's front seven might just be the best they've faced so far.

Arizona State is going to have an up-and-down rushing game and I don't see Taylor Kelly ever getting the read-option flowing. That's going to make it extra difficult for the Devils to get into their trademark tempo-based rhythm. On the other end, I have a gut feeling that a career-defining game could be in store for Brett Hundley. The Devils are going to put up a hell of a fight, I just ultimately don't think it will be enough.

Bold prediction: Brett Hundley totals four touchdowns.

Ben Haber: Arizona State 38, UCLA 31

The Arizona State marketing campaign announcing the Sun Devils have arrived launched last season. Over a year later, it's time to make good on that announcement. ASU travels to UCLA at the Rose Bowl for essentially the Pac-12 South championship. After the game, one team can begin to purchase champagne while the other will be disappointed and maybe even on the verge of tears. For the third straight year, we're in nearly the same situation. But in this go around, I have the Sun Devils prevailing.

Todd Graham said the defense needs to win them championships. The idea of that seemed very far-fetched early on. Will Sutton, Carl Bradford, Osahon Irabor and more responded to the challenge and are playing their best football at the ideal time. For the ASU offense, the struggles over the last two weeks aren't indicative of the unit. Taylor Kelly will bounce back and finally get himself on the map after Saturday.

For the Bruins, Brett Hundley can match the blows. The shootout will be on. Anthony Barr may be the most important player on either side, because he is capable of single-handedly disrupting the entire flow of the game. Myles Jack and the running game are lethal. Conversely, the fundamental gap approach ASU has adopted will hold its own.

The offensive lineman don't get much recognition, yet the battle of the trenches are going to be the difference. I expect ASU to be hungrier, more desperate team, and it will propel them.

Bold prediction: Taylor Kelly posts 350-plus total yards.

Kerry Crowley: UCLA 33, Arizona State 24

Do I think the Sun Devils will win the Pac-12 South? Yes. Do I think Arizona State will win Saturday’s game? No.

In my opinion, the USC Trojans are playing the best football in the conference right now and I don’t see anyone stopping Ed Orgeron’s squad the rest of the season. Unfortunately for the men of Troy, it’s too little too late as the Sun Devils can still win the Pac-12 South title if they beat the Arizona Wildcats next week and the Trojans win their rivalry matchup with the Bruins.

As for Saturday’s game, I think Arizona State’s recent struggles finally catch up to them against an opponent that takes advantage of costly errors and rides momentum to victories. UCLA can score and the Bruins do it in bunches, so if the Sun Devils hope to lock up the South, they better take care of the football and dictate the tempo of this game. The Bruins average nearly 50 points a game in front of their home crowd, and Brett Hundley is exactly the type of quarterback that can take advantage of this Sun Devil defense. Unless the defensive line consistently forces the Bruins into third and long situations, I don’t see Arizona State shutting down the Bruins’ offensive attack.

On the other side of the ball, the Sun Devils are facing one of the most challenging 3-4 defenses they’ve had to deal with this season. The Sun Devils have gotten themselves in trouble against excellent linebacking corps (Stanford) and outstanding defensive lines (Notre Dame) and this week, UCLA has an extraordinarily fast front seven. I think the Bruins will ride the play of their defense to a victory against Arizona State.

Bold Prediction: The Bruins trail Arizona State by four points or more entering the final quarter before they pull off the comeback.

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