Over the course of the remaining weeks separating us from the return of Sun Devil football, House of Sparky is taking a week-by-week look at the opponents ASU will take on this season. So far we've covered ASU's non-conference schedule as well as their first Pac-12 opponent of the year. One week after playing the Trojans from USC, ASU will play Los Angeles' other college football team, the UCLA Bruins.
Opponent Primer Schedule:
July 8 - Texas A&M - Read
July 13 - Cal Poly - Read
July 15 - New Mexico - Read
July 20 - USC - Read
July 22 - UCLA
July 27 - Colorado
July 29 - Utah
August 5 - Washington State
August 10 - Washington
August 12 - Arizona
August 17 - Cal
UCLA's 2014 Season
The Bruins started their 2014 campaign with expectations the program hadn't experienced since Cade McNown led UCLA to the Cotton and Rose Bowls in the late '90s. With quarterback Brett Hundley entering his third season under center and third-year head coach Jim Mora boasting his best crop of supporting stars, the Bruins were ranked No. 7 in the national preseason polls with realistic expectations of reaching the College Football Playoff.
That aspiration endured a number of early non-conference scares, as the Bruins squeaked by Virginia, Memphis and Texas to open their season undefeated. ASU fans will recall their next game, a Thursday night national showcase that pitted the No. 11 Bruins against the No. 15 Sun Devils. The matchup was Mike Bercovici's first start since taking the reins from an injured Taylor Kelly, and his inexperienced showed in a 62-27 UCLA blowout.
The victory over the team that celebrated its 2013 Pac-12 South title on their field catapulted the Bruins back up the national ranks and into the early CFP picture, but kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn twice missed potential game-winning field goals in the last seconds of UCLA's matchup against Utah, and the Bruins fell to the Utes 30-28. UCLA failed to rebound against eventual Pac-12 champ Oregon the following week, and UCLA's chances at making the inaugural playoff were all but ruined.
UCLA embarked on a five-game winning streak after its loss to Oregon, including wins over then-ranked Arizona and USC, to claw back up the rankings, returning to the Top 10 after beating its cross-town rival 38-20. With a chance to win the Pac-12 South and get another shot at Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game, UCLA fell flat at home against an unranked Stanford squad to end its regular season with a whimper. The Bruins knocked off Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl to end the year at 10-3, but the season will be remembered more for what it could have been rather than what it was.
QB Brett Hundley - Hundley left school with another season of eligibility remaining, but after three seasons under center as UCLA's starting quarterback his decision to jump to the professional ranks was anything but a surprise. Still, Hundley managed to leave a impressive mark on the program in his time there, and he ranks as the school's all-time leader in total offense and touchdown passes.
Hundley was instrumental in returning UCLA football to national respectability, and the successful recruitment of Josh Rosen, the consensus top quarterback recruit in the Class of 2015, to UCLA is owed to the platform that Hundley elevated the program to.
LB Eric Kendricks - In 2013 the UCLA defense was led by All-American linebacker Anthony Barr, who went on to be drafted in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. In 2014, the Bruins saw the rise of another linebacker into All-American form, as Eric Kendricks asserted himself as the team's top defender en route to winning the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker.
Kendricks led all FBS players with 149 solo tackles, and broke the UCLA career record for tackles, having accumulated 481 over his time as a Bruin. Kendricks graduated after the conclusion of the 2014 season and now joins Barr in Minnesota after the Vikings picked him in the second round of the 2015 draft.
DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa - Once a five-star recruit that had college coaches salivating at his potential, Odighizuwa was hindered in college by a right hip injury that took his 2013 season. After returning in 2014 fresh off a medical redshirt, Odighizuwa put together a campaign that showed why he was once a premier recruit.
From the weakside defensive end position, Odighizuwa racked up an impressive 61 tackles and six sacks, earning second-team all-conference honors. His breakout season landed him with the New York Giants as a third round pick.
LB Myles Jack - While still another season away from being three years out of high school and thus eligible for the NFL Draft, Jack would've been a top pick in 2015 if he was allowed to make the leap to the professional ranks. Jack first burst on the national scene in 2013 a true freshman starting12 games at linebacker while also toting the ball as a running back thanks to multiple injuries to UCLA's top backs.
Jack scored seven touchdowns on offense while racking up 75 tackles, two interceptions and another touchdown on defense. Jack's opportunities on offense in 2014 were more limited thanks to a healthy depth chart at the running back position for the Bruins, but he still managed three touchdowns and earned second-team Pac-12 honors for his defensive production, second to only Kendricks with 88 tackles on the year.
He comes into 2015 established as the team's top linebacker, but he's talented enough to warrant continued involvement in the UCLA offense.
RB Paul Perkins - Hailing from Chandler High School where he played high school football with Brett Hundley, Perkins burst on the scene in 2014 and accumulated the second-highest single-season rushing total in UCLA history. His 1,575 yards were tops in the conference and his 194 yards and two scores in the Alamo Bowl earned him MVP honors.
Both Perkins and Jack come into the 2015 campaign on the watch-list for the Walter Camp Award. Besides being from the area, Perkins has multiple connections to the Sun Devils as his father played fullback for ASU in the late '80s while younger brother Bryce, a dual-threat quarterback, recently signed his letter of intent to play for Arizona State.
DT Eddie Vanderdoes - A five-star recruit out of high school who dominated offensive lines at Placer High School outside of Sacramento, Vanderdoes signed a letter of intent to play for Brian Kelly's Fighting Irish at Notre Dame. But Vanderdoes soon had a change of heart and was allowed to renege on his signature, deciding on UCLA as his college choice.
Vanderdoes made periodic impacts in his freshman season but didn't establish himself as a dominant collegiate player until 2014, collecting 50 tackles and a pair of sacks on the year. Vanderdoes also doubled as a goal-line fullback for the Bruins, scoring a touchdown on a one-yard plunge against Utah. With the graduation of Odighizuwa, Vanderdoes will be entrusted to make good on that five-star potential in 2015.
Reasons for ASU optimism
Whereas the Sun Devils will brave 2015's waters under the guidance of fifth-year quarterback Mike Bercovici, UCLA has to replace the best quarterback to play for the Bruins since Troy Aikman. Neither of UCLA's options for signal-callers are particularly ideal, as the Bruins will choose between Jerry Neuheisel and true freshman Rosen.
Neuheisel filled in admirably for an injured Hundley in a UCLA come-from-behind win over Texas last season, but his chances of leading the Bruins offense full-time are shaky at best. A betting man would put his money on Rosen taking the position, and UCLA will have to hope the hype surrounding the five-star recruit translates to the field after only practicing with the team in spring.
Reasons for ASU pessimism
While the quarterback running the UCLA offense this season isn't yet set in stone, the unit that takes the field around him will be the best that Mora's had since coming to UCLA. The offensive line is composed of experienced juniors and seniors while Perkins is one missed tackle away from breaking a long run off every time he touches the ball.
ASU missed numerous tackles against UCLA last season in the blowout defeat, many turning what would have been a modest gain into game-changing plays. The UCLA receiving corps boasts accomplished seniors Jordan Payton and Devin Fuller while redshirt sophomore Eldridge Massington scored his first collegiate touchdown against the Sun Devils on an 80-yard catch-and-run.