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ASU Football's Six Most Important Games of 2013: UCLA Bruins

House of Sparky is breaking down ASU's six most important games of the 2013 season. Up first in our series, is ASU's November 23rd meeting with Pac-12 South foe UCLA. The Bruins have beaten the Sun Devils two years in a row, including a 45-43 heartbreaking loss last season.

Brett Hundley threw four touchdown passes against ASU last season in a UCLA victory.
Brett Hundley threw four touchdown passes against ASU last season in a UCLA victory.

There is little doubt that Arizona State's opening five-game stretch is the the toughest stretch the Sun Devils have had in a long time.

Aside from an opening game tuneup against Sacramento State, Todd Graham and company will face reigning Big Ten Champion Wisconsin, Pac-12 Champion Stanford, national runner-up Notre Dame along with a very talented USC team.

However, when the leaves turn colors and the weather cools Arizona State's schedule softens. The Sun Devils, by their standards, should face an easy road from October 12th to November 23rd.

On the second to last Saturday in November, the Sun Devils will travel to Pasadena, California, to play UCLA with a potential Pac-12 title game birth on the line.

Some experts believe the Bruins are the favorite to win the Pac-12 South. Brett Hundley leads a potent UCLA offense that averaged 34.4 points per game last season. Cassius Marsh and Anthony Barr lead an improving UCLA defense and Jim Mora is winning recruiting battles against the powerhouse schools on the West coast.

Previous Meeting - October 27th, 2012 (UCLA wins 45-43)

The Bruins and the Sun Devils took part in perhaps the most exciting game of ASU's season. Taylor Kelly threw for 315 yards and four touchdowns, including one to D.J. Foster with 1:33 left to give ASU a one-point lead.

Chandler native Brett Hundley led the Bruins down the field and set up a Ka'imi Fairbairn 33-yard game winning field goal as time expired. When the dust settled on the season, it was that kick that kept Arizona State from facing Stanford for the Pac-12 title.

Why is it important?

As fans begin to read preseason publications, they will start to see a trend develop. When people pick the Pac-12 South, they will often have UCLA No. 1 and ASU No. 2. Depending on what happens in the first 10 games of the season, the Sun Devils may be in a position to punch a ticket to the Pac-12 title game with a victory over UCLA.

This has become an underrated rivalry on the field, as UCLA has won the last two meetings by a combined three points. The Bruins, not USC and not ASU, have won the Southern division both years of its existence and they come into 2013 as the team to beat in the South

The game also has meaning off the field and in the recruiting battlefield. Recently, UCLA has come into Arizona and gotten some of the state's best players.

Last season, the Bruins pilfered Priest Willis, Kenny Lacy and Jalen Ortiz from the state of Arizona and into the powder blue. UCLA has Dionte Sykes committed for the class of 2014 and is high on the list of several Arizona high school seniors.

How winnable is the game?

The Sun Devils have not won on the road against UCLA since 2007, losing three straight. Arizona State has not beaten the Bruins since Brock Osweiler's breakout game in 2010.

Todd Graham's defense will have its hands full in this contest. The Bruins put up 45 on ASU last season, the most of any team. UCLA has playmakers Jordan James, Paul Perkins and Damien Thigpen in the backfield alongside Hundley.

The contest may come down to how disciplined the ASU defense is. It will come down to how Arizona State can contain and handle Hundley. The game figures to be a shootout just like last season's contest. Whichever team has the ball last may come out on top.