UCLA (3-2) at Arizona State (4-1) at Sun Devil Stadium. TV: ESPN2, 7:30 p.m.
Times staff writer Ben Bolch analyzes Saturday’s game:
Most intriguing story line: The unexpected has become routine in this series. The road team has won the last four games, with Arizona State defeating previously undefeated and seventh-ranked UCLA last season at the Rose Bowl. In 2014, UCLA set a record for the most points scored by an opponent at Sun Devil Stadium during a 62-27 drubbing. What kind of zaniness might be next?
UCLA pass offense vs. Arizona State pass defense: If recent trends hold up, Josh Rosen might be able to get back into the Heisman race based on his statistic from this game alone. Rosen is coming off a season-best performance in which he threw for three touchdowns and 350 yards despite four drops from his receivers. Arizona State features the worst pass defense in the nation, allowing 396 yards per game. The Sun Devils do have a decent pass rush when they’re not surrendering big plays, logging 11 sacks in five games. EDGE: UCLA.
UCLA run offense vs. Arizona State run defense: The Bruins identified a featured tailback in Nate Starks last week but are still seeking a prolific one nearly halfway through the season. Starks was decent against Arizona, averaging 4.7 yards per carry and scoring a touchdown, but UCLA’s overall running game remained middling with 125 yards. Running lanes could be hard to find against an Arizona State defense that allows only 107 yards rushing per game, ranking 18th in the nation. But USC did have some success last week against the Sun Devils, running for 157 yards. EDGE: Arizona State.
Arizona State pass offense vs. UCLA pass defense: Quarterback Manny Wilkins’ availability is the big story line here. He led the Sun Devils to a 4-0 start and completed 67.2% of his passes before suffering a left leg injury that forced him out of the Sun Devils’ game against USC and has left him doubtful for this game. If he’s unable to play, backup Brady White will be able to draw from the experience he received against the Trojans, when he completed six of 13 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. Arizona State relies heavily on receiver Tim White, the son of Timmy White and nephew of Lonnie White, both former USC receivers and kick returners. (Lonnie White, who died in 2014, was also a longtime Times sportswriter.) UCLA’s pass defense ranks 24th nationally, allowing 186 yards per game. EDGE: UCLA.
Arizona run offense vs. UCLA run defense: A rushing attack that had been among the nation’s best ran aground against USC. The Sun Devils were held to 75 yards, with Nick Ralston (3.8 yards per carry) and Demario Richard (3.7) non-factors. Even with that dud, Arizona State is still averaging 204 yards per game and will present a formidable challenge. The Bruins’ run defense is middling, allowing 170 yards per game, though that’s a significant improvement over where it was just a few weeks ago. EDGE: Arizona State.
Special teams: Arizona State kicker Zane Gonzalez has already beaten UCLA, in a sense. He surpassed former Bruins Kai Forbath and John Lee last week when he made two field goals, giving him a Pac-12 Conference-record 86 for his career. Gonzalez needs three more to own the Football Bowl Subdivision record held by former Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins. UCLA’s J.J. Molson watched a field goal bounce off the top of the left upright against Arizona but has been solid, making seven of 10 on the season. The Bruins finally broke a few long kickoff and punt returns last week, though Ishmael Adams’ status remains unknown after he suffered a shoulder injury. EDGE: Arizona State.
Ben Bolch’s pick: UCLA remains peeved about Arizona State handing the Bruins their first loss last season after a 4-0 start. Not that they will need the extra incentive facing such a porous pass defense. UCLA 38, Arizona State 24.