After getting off to a 2-0 start, including a huge comeback win over Texas A&M in week one, the UCLA Bruins (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) have struggled. They have won just two of their last seven games and are winless on the road this season.
On the other hand, the Bruins are undefeated at home, including a four-point win over the Colorado Buffaloes who fell to the Arizona State Sun Devils (5-4, 4-2) on Saturday, 41-30.
The last few years have provided good games between ASU and UCLA, and for head coach Jim Mora it could be a make or break game.
If UCLA is to bounce back and save their season this week against ASU, here’s who they’ll need to have a big game:
Josh Rosen - Junior QB
UCLA relies heavily on the passing game and more specifically their star pass thrower Josh Rosen. The Manhattan Beach, California native was the No. 6 California recruit in the class of 2015 and has done nothing but impress since arriving in Westwood. So far through the first nine games of the season, Rosen has completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 2,713 yards and 20 touchdowns. As one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, Rosen is also making a lot of noise for the upcoming draft where he will likely be one of the top players taken.
When ASU hosted UCLA last year, it was a crucial game for Rosen, as he suffered two injuries that ended his season that night en route to a 23-20 ASU victory. Just like last year, Rosen is beat up. He didn’t travel with the team to Utah last week but coach Mora has indicated that he will likely play this weekend against ASU. In the time that he has played against ASU, Rosen is 0-2 with 680 passing yards and four touchdowns along with two interceptions. Coming off a week where ASU allowed 345 yards through the air to Steven Montez of Colorado, Rosen could make things hard on the Sun Devils if they don’t pressure him and disrupt the passing game. If Rosen doesn’t play, it’ll likely be redshirt freshman Matt Lynch who will get the start for the Bruins.
Theo Howard - Sophomore WR
Outside of a good offensive line, the most important asset to a quarterback is a receiver to lean on. Manny Wilkins has N’Keal Harry, Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph has James Washington, and Rosen has Darren Andrews. Unfortunately for Rosen, both Andrews and his second-leading receiver Jordan Lasley will not be available this week. Howard is next on the depth chart and will likely see an uptick in targets this week for UCLA. The Bruins only completed 11 passes last week against Utah but Howard had three of them for 37 yards. If UCLA’s pass offense is to get off the ground without all of its top pass catchers, Howard will need to step into the light and make some plays.
Kenny Young - Senior LB
With an offense that is barely being held together at the moment, the Bruins will need to rely on their defense to keep them in the game. That might be a tall task; however, considering they have allowed an average of roughly 39 points per game to this point. One standout to this point has been senior linebacker Kenny Young. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Young has played four years at UCLA and has racked up 263 total tackles, two interceptions, and 5.5 sacks. Coming off a 90-tackle campaign a season ago, Young has picked up right where he left off and already has 69 total tackles on the season. Considering the success ASU, and more specifically Demario Richard, had running the ball last week, it will take great performances from players like Young in order for UCLA to pull off the win this weekend.
With ASU one win closer to bowl eligibility and UCLA trending in the wrong direction, it should be an interesting matchup at the Rose Bowl come Saturday night.