Arizona State (5-4, 3-3 in Pac-12 play) looks to remain in the driver’s seat of the Pac-12 South as it takes on UCLA (2-7, 2-4) at noon at Sun Devil Stadium in the last regular-season home game for 16 seniors, most notably quarterback Manny Wilkins.
The Sun Devils are coming off a 38-20 victory over then-No. 16 Utah while UCLA is looking to rebound from a 42-21 loss at Oregon. The Bruins have been outscored in their past two contests 83-31.
ASU coach Herm Edwards doesn’t think his team will take the Bruins for granted though.
“I think for the most part guys understand where we’re at. We have to win this game. Every week you have to win a game,” he said. “We haven’t won three in a row. This is a good football team (in UCLA). I know the team’s record (is what it is) but they have some good athletes. They can move the ball, they can do some things on defense to discourage you. We have to be prepared.”
UCLA leads the all-time series 20-13-1 and has won 10 of 16 games at ASU, including a 44-37 victory last season in which then Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen threw for 381 yards.
Kickoff is scheduled for noon. TV: Pac-12 Network. Radio: KMVP-FM 98.7.
3 things to watch
1. Can ASU avoid a letdown? The Sun Devils got off to a 2-0 start this season, then dropped the next two games so Edwards hopes his team fares better in its second attempt to win three in a row. The players admitted they got a little complacent with that start and have vowed not to let that drop-off happen again. All said they realize how much is on the line this time, which is keeping them more focused.
2. Will the ASU defense continue its steady improvement? The Sun Devils are coming off their best showing of the season, especially given the level of the competition. Danny Gonzales’ young squad held Utah to 100 yards fewer than its season average and 20 points fewer than its scoring average the past four games. This should be another good day for the ASU defense against a UCLA offense that ranks 103rd out of 129 FBS teams and has some instability at quarterback.
3. Will this be the last home game for N’Keal Harry? Most likely. Harry’s stock continues to rise and his showing the past two weeks has him on everyone’s radar. He’s projected by most as a first-round draft pick with one prognosticator listing him as high as fifth overall. He’s been one of the most exciting athletes to come through the school in the past decade.
The Chip Kelly era in Westwood has gotten off to a rough start as the Bruins’ only wins have come against California (37-7 on Oct. 13) and Arizona (31-30 on Oct. 30). Injuries have been a big problem as well. Among those not expected to play this week are linebacker Jaelen Phillips (concussion). The team has used two quarterbacks, freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson and senior Wilton Speight as Thompson-Robinson has been slowed by a shoulder injury. Out of 129 FBS schools, UCLA ranks 103rd in total offense (362.8 yards) and 100th in total defense (437.8 yards). Kelly compiled a 46-7 record in four seasons as a head coach at Oregon from 2009-12. In that stretch, the Ducks captured three outright conference championships and four BCS bowl games. Since then, he’s served as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles (2013-15) and the San Francisco 49ers (2016).
RB Joshua Kelley, UCLA: The 5-foot-11, 204-pound redshirt junior has chalked up 820 yards on 146 carries in eight games (102.5 yards per game) with a season-high of 161 yards coming in last week’s loss to Oregon. It marked the fifth time Kelley has surpassed the 100-yard mark. He also has 23 receptions for 162 yards on the season. Kelly is in his first year with the Bruins, having transferred from UC Davis, where he had 1,139 yards and seven touchdowns in two years.
QB Manny Wilkins, ASU: The senior quarterback has completed 179 of his 277 passing attempts for 2,250 yards with 15 touchdowns and had just three passes intercepted. His season-best of 380 yards passing came in the second game of the season against Michigan State, but he is coming off a stellar 285-yard effort in last week’s 38-20 win over Utah. He has 7,849 yards passing which puts him at fifth all-time in ASU history. He should move up two spots before the season is over. His leadership has been a valuable asset for the young team as well.
5 – Number of games in which the Sun Devils have not allowed a sack. Since 2000, ASU had never had more than two games in a season in which it didn’t allow a sack.
17 – Number of true freshmen UCLA has played this season.
116 – Rushing yards needed for ASU’s Eno Benjamin to set the school’s Pac-12 era record for rushing yards (1,229, currently at 1,113).
302 – Number of points UCLA has allowed in nine games. The Bruins have allowed 30 or more points in seven.
978 – Passing yards needed for Wilkins to move into third all-time in program history (8,827, currently at 7,849).
This is a game the Sun Devils should win and win convincingly, but they have yet to win three consecutive games, which would be the case with a victory. Their last two games (at Oregon and at Arizona) will be difficult, which makes the need to take care of business Saturday even more critical.
ASU 41, UCLA 21.