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ASU Football Opponent Primer: UCLA Bruins

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The Sun Devils look to go for their third straight win against the Bruins.

UCLA v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Arizona State 2017 Schedule

New Mexico State (Aug. 31) — Read

San Diego State (Sept. 9) — Read

At Texas Tech (Sept. 16) — Read

Oregon (Sept. 23) — Read

At Stanford (Sept. 30) — Read

Washington (Oct. 14) — Read

At Utah (Oct. 21) — Read

USC (Oct. 28) — Read

Colorado (Nov. 4) — Read

At UCLA (Nov. 11)

At Oregon State (Nov. 18)

Arizona (Nov. 25)

UCLA’s 2016 season

The Bruins’ 2016 campaign was their most disappointing in recent history. Following a span of winning seasons that dated all the way back to 2011, UCLA limped their way to a 4-8 (2-7 in Pac 12) season. In his fifth year as head coach, Jim Mora and the Bruins got off to a decent start at 3-2 through five weeks with two tough losses to Texas A&M on the road in overtime and the then-No. 7 Stanford Cardinal at the Rose Bowl.

Sparked by their three-point loss in Tempe last season, the Bruins went on a four-game losing streak effectively ending any hopes of a salvaged season. With injuries to key players, such as star QB Josh Rosen, the team never was able to settle into any sort of groove. Through the first ten weeks of the season most of their wins were solid and their losses were typically close games. Their final two games were a different story losing both of their rivalry games to USC and Cal by scores of 36-14 and 36-10 respectively.

Coming off a stretch of at least 8-win seasons, it’s safe to say that the 2016 season was a disappointment to the UCLA faithful. While they may not expect any title runs in the near future, the expectation for this year will certainly be higher.

Key Returners

QB Josh Rosen — Rosen has been on just about every NFL team’s radar since he was in high school at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California. He wasted no time proving the talk had merit his freshman season, as he threw for 3670 yards and 23 touchdowns compared to just 11 interceptions. Last season was a different story. Rosen fell short of the 2,000-yard mark due to a season-ending shoulder injury he suffered in week six against ASU. The 20-year-old Manhattan Beach native is rumored to be heading for the draft following this season. With so much of his future on the line, he will likely bring everything he has in 2017.

LB Kenny Young Young is a veteran on the defensive side of the ball for the Bruins this season, as he is heading into his fourth season with the team. Through his previous three years, he has 194 total tackles including 90 last year. The New Orleans native also upped his sack numbers by racking up five sacks in 2016. With the struggles from last season on the offensive side of the ball, defense will be key in 2017 in order for UCLA to have any chance at redemption.

DB Adarius Pickett — With the struggles the Bruins experienced last year, it was harder to pinpoint who might be impactful this year, but Adarius Pickett could just be one of them. Pickett is a redshirt junior who had 42 total tackles and three interceptions in 2016 to go along with eight passes defended and a fumble recovery. With numerous losses on the defensive side of the ball, Pickett can step into the spotlight this season and make a real difference.

Biggest Losses

DL Takkarist McKinley — Probably the largest loss the Bruins experienced came on the defensive side of the ball in Takkarist McKinley. McKinley had 10 sacks in 2016 en route to a first team All-Pac 12 selection by the coaches. Following his senior year the Richmond, Calif. native declared for the NFL Draft where he was selected with the 26th pick by the Atlanta Falcons. The loss of McKinley will greatly hurt the Bruins presence up front, as he was one of the most impactful players in the nation.

LB Jayon Brown — Another loss on defense for the Bruins, Jayon Brown, was also drafted in 2017. Brown went in the fifth round to the Tennessee Titans following a stellar 2016 season. Brown led the team in total tackles with 119. He also had 2 12 sacks, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. The Bruins will miss his presence in both the run-stopping and pass defending game moving forward.

Reasons for optimism

Although ASU plays UCLA on the road at the Rose Bowl, UCLA went just 3-3 at home last season. Additionally, ASU has won back-to-back matchups against the Bruins dating back to the Sun Devils’ upset of ULCA in 2015. With very little proven weapons at Rosen’s disposal, the ASU defense has the chance to contain the offense which would likely result in a Sun Devil victory over a broken UCLA team.

Reasons for pessimism

Even though this is a beaten down and embarrassed UCLA team, they still have a winning culture. A road game in LA is never easy no matter who it is, so home field advantage could play a part if the Bruins’ season has any hope. By the time these teams face off, they will have just two more games so it could be crunch time. If Rosen can pick apart the ASU defense like he did for the bits of the game he played in last year, it could be a long night for Sun Devil fans.