The UCLA Bruins enter this week's tilt ranked No. 7 in the country. Last year, it was the Sun Devils' defeat to the Bruins that kickstarted a wonderful run during the middle of the regular season. This season, ASU will be hoping that they'll be able to come away with a season-changing upset to get them going into Pac-12 play.
The Bruins enter having already loss three nationally-heralded defensive starters for the season—defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes, linebacker Myles Jack and cornerback Fabian Moreau. They also come in having new faces starting at quarterback and at linebacker with Brett Hundley and Eric Kendricks having each moved on to the NFL.
With a revamped and revised unit, will UCLA be able to comfortably come away with the result this time around? Let's take a look at some players who will be key in helping the Bruins do so on Saturday.
Paul Perkins, RB - Junior
Perkins has been hailed as one of the most talented rushers in the entire conference this year. Perkins comes into the matchup having rushed for 514 yards (10th in the nation) and six touchdowns (tied-11th in the nation) while averaging 128.5 rushing yards a game. For those who are into new age advanced statistics, he is also currently College Football Focus' second-highest graded running back this season.
The Chandler, Ariz., native is having an MVP-caliber season for the Bruins and is a popular chic Heisman finalist pick among many popular sports personalities, Stanford head coach David Shaw also stated he expects Perkins to be a successful player in the NFL.
While Perkins was held out of the end zone by ASU's defense last season, he still found plenty of success on the ground en route to finishing with 137 yards on 14 carries (9.8 yards per carry). The older brother of Sun Devils quarterback Bryce Perkins, Paul will once again play a key role for the Bruins offense during this weekend's game, and if ASU is unable to limit him, they'll be in for a long day.
Josh Rosen, QB - Freshman
The true freshman sensation burst onto the scene with an outstanding showing against Virginia to begin the season. Since then, Rosen has upheld the fact there are still flaws in his play, which came back to earth against UNLV, followed by a nip-tuck effort against BYU before an up-and-down performance against Arizona.
College Football Focus' Sam Monson recently broke down Rosen, noting that the St. John Bosco (Calif.) product struggles to "(throw) with anticipation" and overcoming tunnel vision, which often plagues young signal-callers.
Last season, the Sun Devils allowed Brett Hundley to have his way with their defense, finishing with a 97.7 QBR (the third-highest allowed by ASU in the last 10 seasons). We'll see whether we get the "good" Rosen or the "true freshman with flaws" Rosen this week, but if he can find his rhythm, there won't be much the Arizona State defense will be able to do to combat it.
Ishmael Adams, DB - Senior
Adams' playmaking abilities were on full display in last year's rout of ASU, as the defensive back returned an interception 95 yards right before halftime to give the Bruins a 27-17 lead, before returning a kickoff 100 yards, giving UCLA a 41-20 advantage.
After being suspended indefinitely for allegedly robbing an Uber driver of their cellphone to start the season, Adams was reinstated ahead of last week's game against the Arizona Wildcats. He finished with one tackle, a pass breakup and an interception in his season debut.
Mike W.R. of GoJoeBruin.com says that the Bruins' secondary has been a bright spot that UCLA is still tinkering with amidst the loss of three key defensive players. But, with Adams back, the ballhawking ability of the group is essentially second to none in the conference.
This time around, ASU should look to keep the ball away and out of Adams' hands, as he's already proven to them firsthand what kind of impact he can have on a game.