Tonight’s divisional showdown with the UCLA Bruins is fast approaching, but we’ve still got some questions about the state of the visitors from Pasadena.
Thankfully, our UCLA sister site Bruins Nation was gracious enough to help us out. Below, their staff talks expectations, the differences between this year’s Bruin team and the one we saw last year, and much, much more.
House of Sparky: 3-2 might not have been the start Bruin fans were expecting, but UCLA had a chance to win both of those eventual losses up until the final play in those games. Has the team performed up to the level of your preseason expectations?
Nirya: I think if you had told Bruin fans before the season that they would have been 3-2 with losses to Texas A&M and Stanford, they’d probably understand. Hell, I think that’s what most of us assumed would happen. That said, it’s the manner that they lost that has people down on the team.
This is especially true of the Stanford loss, where UCLA looked like the better team for the majority of the game, only to return to their conservative roots and lose the game. So it’s kind of a mixed bag where most expected UCLA to have this record, but the manner in which they got there leaves much to be desired.
AnteatersandBruins: We’re exactly where I thought we’d be. I was really hoping to be 5-0, but not many teams are. The losses were close, and though I’m not into moral victories, I can take these losses better than laying an egg against a subpar team.
With that said, the loss to Stanford was particularly crushing. We had ‘em and gave up.
HoS: What's the biggest difference between this Bruins team and the one we saw last year, when Arizona State was able to go into Pasadena and upset UCLA?
Nirya: I think the biggest difference is that UCLA’s defense will be at full strength coming into this game. Last year, UCLA was without the services of Myles Jack, Eddie Vanderdoes, and Fabian Moreau after the third game of the season, and any defense losing three of their biggest stars is going to be noticeably worse.
Myles Jack may be gone, but Vanderdoes and Moreau are back and healthy, and the defense has become much more aggressive as a result. Yes, there’s a new offensive system in place, but the defense living up to the potential of last year is the biggest difference.
AnteatersandBruins: Has to be on defense. We’re finally healthy and performing at a higher level than last year. Tom Bradley is in his second year, so I think we’re seeing the fruits of the hire.
HoS: It appears that freshman quarterback Brady White will make his first career start this Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium. What is Tom Bradley's defense going to do to make him uncomfortable?
Nirya: No matter who ends up behind center for the Sun Devils, that person will have to deal with one of the best secondaries in the nation. Seriously, the secondary is so strong that Tom Bradley has become much more comfortable in sending increased pressure with the front seven. The run defense has gotten noticeably better, and the Bruins are able to get off the field more often.
AnteatersandBruins: I think White is going to see a defense like he’s never seen before. He won’t have much time to set his feet and throw. I know the Chip Lindsey offense is largely an Air-Raid, high pass offense, so White is going to need to get rid of the ball quick.
HoS: Between SoSo Jamabo and Bolu Olorunfunmi, which Bruin running back has the better name, and the better game?
Nirya: I’m partial to Bolu Olorunfunmi’s name, because it is definitely more fun to type repeatedly. Olorunfunmi! That said, their games are completely different and, in many ways, complementary.
Bolu is the more physical of the two, while Soso Jamabo is much more of a slasher and speedster. That said, junior Nate Starks emerged last game as the top guy, with a solid mix of speed and power. Look for him to get the majority of the carries out of the backfield.
AnteatersandBruins: For Pete’s sake, Bolu has “run” in his name! But I think Olorunfunmi has proven to be the better runner so far, with Jamabo rounding out the run game with some bright spots.
HoS: How do most UCLA fans view the Sun Devils and how confident are they about this weekend's game?
Nirya: Personally? I don’t think the Sun Devils are very good.
There’s a good offense here, but the defense looks to be a work in progress, with just a lack of talent relative to the top teams in the conference. I think last week’s game against the Trojans exposed that lack of talent, and UCLA fans expect the team will ultimately get a comfortable win on Saturday.
AnteatersandBruins: I haven’t heard a whole lot of speculation or worry on the part of Bruin fans. I would expect a win.
HoS: Do Bruin fans typically travel well? How much blue and gold might we see in Tempe on Saturday?
Nirya: I don’t know if I’d say Bruin fans travel particularly well. The only games I’d say the Bruins travel to well would be those against the Bay Area teams, just because there’s a rather large alumni base in that area. That said, Tempe is relatively close compared to some of the other Pac 12 schools, so I’d say there’s probably a good chance of decent turnout from the Bruin faithful.
AnteatersandBruins: Having been to Sun Devil Stadium myself, I think we travel well to choice locations. Arizona schools tend to have a bigger draw than the Washington and Oregon schools just because of driving distance.
HoS: The visiting team in this matchup has emerged victorious in the last four games between these teams. Does that trend continue?
Nirya: This may be presumptuous, but I don’t think this Arizona State team is as good as previous teams. UCLA, at this point, appears to be the better team, so I’d say the streak continues. UCLA prevails 24-13 in the desert.
AnteatersandBruins: I say the road team wins, but because in this case, the road team is the better team.