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UCLA-Arizona State: A look at how the teams match up

UCLA-Arizona State: A look at how the teams match up
UCLA defensive back Adarius Pickett in action against Utah. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA (2-7, 2-4) at Arizona State (5-4, 3-3)

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Saturday, 11 a.m. PST, Sun Devil Stadium. TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 570, 1150, 97.3.

Marquee matchup

Arizona State receiver N’Keal Harry vs. the UCLA secondary. Bruins coach Chip Kelly called the 6-foot-4, 213-pound Harry the best receiver his team will have faced this season, a declaration backed by his production. Harry ranks second in the Pac-12 Conference in yards receiving (828) and touchdowns (nine) while making some of the season’s most astounding catches. “He can dominate in one-on-one coverage because even if he’s covered, he can still go make a play,” Kelly said. “He’s got really good speed for a guy that size and he’s got tremendous ball skills.” Harry will face a Bruins secondary that ranks sixth in the Pac-12 in pass defense, giving up 229.6 yards per game.

Getting offensive

UCLA (362.8 ypg/21.2 ppg): Kelly said quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was fully recovered from the injury he sustained last weekend against Oregon, presumably putting him on track to start against the Sun Devils. Tailback Joshua Kelley needs to gain 180 yards to become the Bruins’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Paul Perkins in 2015.

Arizona State (435.4 ypg/29.8 ppg): Harry isn’t the Sun Devils’ only prolific playmaker. Tailback Eno Benjamin leads the Pac-12 with 123.7 yards rushing per game and quarterback Manny Wilkins ranks third in the conference in pass efficiency while throwing for an average of 250 yards per game. Wilkins has 15 touchdown passes and only three interceptions.

Getting defensive

UCLA (437.8 ypg/33.6 ppg): The Bruins haven’t generated many sacks or turnovers lately, getting only one of each over their two-game losing streak. But the defense played relatively well against Oregon with the exception of a few explosive plays, mainly falling victim to the Bruins’ special teams repeatedly putting them in a bind.

Arizona State (379.2 ypg/22.4 ppg): The Sun Devils have changed defensive coordinators since last season but feature a similar attacking style in which Kelly estimated that they blitz about 75% of the time. That approach has helped Arizona State collect 24 sacks, putting it in a tie with USC for third-most in the Pac-12.

Something special

Much of the focus will be on UCLA’s special teams, which were an across-the-board disaster against Oregon with a punt returned for a touchdown, a missed tackle on a fake field-goal attempt and a muffed punt.

Of note

Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said he met Kelly while serving as honorary captain during a Philadelphia Eagles game that Kelly coached. Edwards said he had already been an admirer of Kelly from his time at Oregon. “He had that thing going now,” Edwards told reporters this week. “That thing was going 1,000 miles per hour and I remember sitting in the studio thinking that it was hard to deal with.”

Injury report

UCLA linebacker Krys Barnes wore a yellow noncontact jersey in practice this week but appeared to be a full participant in drills. Receiver Kyle Philips appears to be closing in on a possible return from the unspecified injury that has sidelined him since late September, increasing his activities in practice this week. Tailback Kazmeir Allen’s practice participation was more limited after he suffered an unknown injury against Utah on Oct. 26.

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