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ASU Football Opponent Primer: UCLA Bruins

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Sun Devils in So Cal

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 17 USC at UCLA Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Arizona State 2019 Schedule

Kent State (Aug. 29) - Read

Sacramento State (Sept. 6) - Read

At Michigan State (Sept. 14) - Read

Colorado (Sept. 21) - Read

At Cal (Sept. 27) - Read

Washington State (Oct. 12) - Read

At Utah (Oct. 19) - Read

At UCLA (Oct. 26)

USC (Nov. 9)

At Oregon State (Nov. 16)

Oregon (Nov. 23)

Arizona (Nov. 30)

UCLA’s 2018 Season

Chip Kelly’s first year at the helm in Westwood didn’t exactly go as planned. The team lost all three of their non-conference games to start the season, and would go on to lose their first two conference games as well. The Bruins’ 0-5 start was their worst since 1943. After getting wins against California and Arizona, UCLA went on a three game losing streak, which included a 31-28 loss at Sun Devil Stadium. The Bruins failed to qualify for a bowl game, and their 3-9 record was their worst since 1971.

Key Returners

RB Joshua Kelley (SR) - A key component of UCLA’s offense, Kelley rushed for 1,243 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. On six separate occasions, Kelly’s speed gave him 100 yards or more on the ground. Kelley ranked top-five in the conference in rushing, and only Eno Benjamin rushed for more touchdowns. The senior running back has been named to the 2019 Maxwell Award Watch List.

DB Darnay Holmes (JR) - One of the few bright spots on defense last season for the Bruins, Holmes started all 12 games and led the team with two forced fumbles and three interceptions. In addition, he recorded 48 tackles, good for fifth on the team. On the road against Arizona State in 2018, Holmes picked off Manny Wilkins and took it 31 yards the other way for a score. Holmes also handles returns on kickoffs and in UCLA’s last game of the season versus Stanford, he returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown.

Biggest Losses

TE Caleb Wilson- Even though Wilson was Mr. Irrelevant in this year’s NFL Draft (Arizona Cardinals), he made a serious impact his junior year with UCLA. He ranked first on the team in reception yards (965), and he tied with Theo Howard for the most reception TDs (4). His average of 16.1 yards per grab was second-best among UCLA receivers. A First-Team All-Pac-12 selection in 2018, his presence will be missed when the Bruins have to air it out in key situations.

DB Adarius Pickett- Now with the Chargers, Pickett led the team with 123 tackles (77 solo) in 2018. He was also the first Bruin defensive back in over a decade to record 100+ tackles in a single season, the last being Dennis Keyes in 2007. UCLA’s defense was not strong last year, and even with several players returning, not having Pickett at his usual spot is a major blow to a defense that allowed 34.1 PPG last season.

Reasons Why ASU Could Win

The Bruins allowed Pac-12 opponents to rush for 207.8 yards per game in 2018. Only Oregon State’s defense was worse in that regard. Eno Benjamin racked up 182 yards and a touchdown against UCLA in ASU’s final home game last season. If Benjamin can have a big night, and ASU’s defense can hold Joshua Kelley in check, the Sun Devils should be able to leave Pasadena with a win.

Reasons Why ASU Could Lose

The Sun Devil defense must contain Joshua Kelley. Just like the Bruins, Arizona State failed to stop the run last year. If the run game isn’t working for ASU, it will be up to guys like Kyle Williams and Brandon Aiyuk to make plays. No N’Keal means less worry for that UCLA secondary. It is also worth stating that ASU struggled on the road last season (2-4), and playing at home could give the Bruins the slight edge, which could end up translating to a W.