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November 17, 2009

First look: UCLA

The Sun Devils (4-6, 2-5) head to the Rose Bowl this weekend to face the UCLA Bruins (5-5, 2-5). Although the records may not reflect it, this has become the most important game of the season for both schools.

If the Bruins come away victorious it will give them six wins, making them bowl eligible; if the Sun Devils lose it will eliminate all hopes for any post season appearance.

Prior to their current two game winning streak, the Bruins had dropped five straight games in conference play; however, sweeping the preseason schedule has the Bruins' hopes for a bowl berth still within reach.

Arizona State is the last game on the Bruins' schedule before they square off against their bitter rival, USC.

ASU is coming off another blowout defeat at Autzen Stadium as it fell to the Oregon Ducks 44-21 last Saturday.

In that game true freshman quarterback Brock Osweiler made his first career start, however, was not the answer to the Sun Devils' offensive woes, completing just 5-of-10 passes for a total of 14 yards.

Leaving the game in the second quarter due to injury, Osweiler was replaced by Samson Szakacsy, the redshirt sophomore impressing many in his first significant action as a Sun Devil.

Szakacsy brought the Sun Devils within ten points in the third quarter, however the rushing attack for Oregon proved to be too dominant as it continued to run up and down the field on the Sun Devil defense.

Once tops in the Pac-10 in rushing defense, the Sun Devils dropped to fourth overall in the category. However, they now sit first in overall defense, allowing 301.4 yards per game.

In Saturday's game expect a defensive battle as both offenses have struggled mightily this season. UCLA sits eighth in total offense in the Pac-10 and ninth in points scored as it manages to put up a little under 23 points per game.

A bright spot in the sub-par UCLA offense is the passing attack as the Bruins sit fourth in the Pac-10.

Led by 19-year-old freshman quarterback Kevin Prince, UCLA has had a season of inconsistent quarterback play. UCLA has seen two games in which Prince has thrown for under 100 yards and three games in which he has thrown for at least 300 yards.

In the eight games he has played, Prince has managed to throw just six touchdown passes, four coming in the last three games.

On the season he averages 197.2 yards passing as he ranks seventh in the Pac-10.

ASU looks to continue its success in the secondary Saturday as the Sun Devils have held opposing quarterbacks to pass for just 116 yards on average over the past two games.

The UCLA receiving core is led by two sophomore players who both have over 500 yards receiving. Taylor Embree leads the team in receptions with 38 while Nelson Rosario leads in receiving yards with 530.

"[Kevin] Prince is starting to get a feel of things and throw the ball and score some points," ASU coach Dennis Erickson said. "They are playing very well offensively and have skill on the outside."

The Bruins have struggled this season to provide a consistent rushing attack as they only average 113.2 yards rushing, making them the second worst in the Pac-10 and 100th in the nation.

The running backs for the Bruins have only managed to reach the end zone 11 times, five of which are credited to freshman running back Johnathan Franklin.

Franklin leads the team in nearly all rushing categories, including 53.2 yard per game and 532 yards.

Franklin's best game of the year came against Cal as he rushed for his second 100 yard game of the season, including a 74-yard touchdown run.

Backing up Franklin is sophomore Derrick Coleman as he has rushed for 234 yards on the season and is averaging nearly five yards per carry.

Defensively the Bruins rank third in the Pac-10 in scoring defense, allowing a little over 21 points per game while giving up on average 340.9 yards.

The most impressive statistic coming from the UCLA defense is their ability to shut down opponents' passing attack as they rank second in the Pac-10 in pass defense, allowing just 192.4 yards through the air.

The secondary of the Bruins has shown its true colors in big time games this season. As they traveled to Knoxville, Tenn. to take on the Volunteers, the UCLA secondary held Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton to just 93 yards passing as he threw three interceptions as the Bruins defeated the Volunteers 19-15.

They also contained Stanford's quarterback sensation Andrew Luck to less than 200 yards passing and no touchdowns.

Leading the charge in secondary is sophomore free safety Rahim Moore. Moore leads the nation in interceptions with nine. Next best in the Pac-10 is Trevin Wade of Arizona with four.

The last four games Moore has four interceptions, including two against Arizona.

Moore hasn't missed a game as a Bruin as he started all 12 games as a true freshman and has continued his success this season in which he has emerged as one of the top free safeties in the Pac-10.

The ASU offensive line will have its hands full as it takes first-team all Pac-10 defensive lineman Brian Price.

Price is first in the Pac-10 and tied for seventh in the nation in tackles for loss with 16.5 and also has contributed five sacks to a rushing defense that allows nearly 150 rushing yards per game.

"Defensively they are extremely good and have one of the better defensive tackles in the country in Brian Price," Erickson said. "[Their defense] has played well against everyone."

A duo of redshirt seniors leads the UCLA line backing corp. Linebackers Kyle Bosworth and Reggie Carter sit first and second on the team in tackles for a defense that ranks fourth in the Pac-10.

Bosworth was slowed down by injury last year as he hurt his knee and missed the team's final ten games, however has bounced back rather well as he ranks as one of the leading tacklers in the Pac-10.

His twin brother, Korey, starts for the Bruins at defensive end and is second on the team in tackles for loss with ten.

UCLA currently leads the series at 15-9-1. Prior to last year's win for the Sun Devils, the teams have split the past four meetings.


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