Sept. 25 UCLA 62, at Arizona State 27
And You Care Because … Down 17-6 early in the second quarter, UCLA stepped up with the start of a massive explosion, going on a 56-10 run starting with a 80-yard touchdown pass play to Eldridge Massington. ASU appeared to be ready to close out the first half strong, but Ishmael Adams returned a Mike Bercovici pass 95 yards for a touchdown in the final seconds for a ten point Bruin lead, and the rout was on. UCLA needed one play to start the second half with a score, with Jordan Payton taking a Brett Hundley pass 80 yards for a touchdown, and following a 24-yard Zane Gonzalez field goal for ASU, Adams struck again with a kickoff return for a score. Hundley finished up with a four-yard scoring pass to Payton and a one-yard touchdown run.
What Else? UCLA QB Brett Hundley completed 18-of-23 passes for 355 yards and four touchdowns and ran eight times for 72 yards and a score.
– Arizona State QB Mike Bercovici completed 42-of-68 passes for 488 yards and three touchdowns with a pick.
– UCLA WR Jordan Payton caught five passes for 151 yards and two scores, and Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong caught 12 passes for 146 yards
– UCLA RB Paul Perkins ran 14 times for 137 yards
Game Rating: B
UCLA (3-0) at Arizona State (3-0) Sept. 25, 10:00, Fox Sports 1
Here’s The Deal: The muddled Pac-12 South begins to get some clarity in Tempe Thursday night.
UCLA and Arizona State are unbeaten, ranked and dreaming of a league title in December. But does anyone really have a pulse on these two programs? The Bruins have been a disappointment so far in 2014, failing to perform like a top 10 in any of its wins over Virginia, Memphis or Texas. And now the program is dealing with the uncertainty surrounding franchise QB Brett Hundley’s non-throwing elbow. Hundley expects to play, but how much contact can he endure? If UCLA wants to dispel notions that it’s living a lie, it’s got a marquee game on national TV to prove it.
The Sun Devils are no less of a mystery than the Bruins. That’s bound to happen when you open the season with Weber State, New Mexico and Colorado, and your roster has a markedly different look than the previous year. Oh, and ASU’s injury situation behind center is even worse than UCLA’s; starter Taylor Kelly is out, leaving junior Mike Bercovici to start for the first time in his career. For better or worse, the curtain gets pulled back on the Devils this week.
Why UCLA Might Win: This is a very tough spot for an inexperienced quarterback.
Kelly is the pilot of the Sun Devil attack, so any successor is going to be a big drop-off. Bercovici’s indoctrination will come against a D flush with former four and five-star athletes. The Bruins are big and agile up front, and linebackers Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack cover a ton of ground. If UCLA can rattle Bercovici, it’s going to diminish the pop of big-play RB D.J. Foster and WR Jaelen Strong. Hundley, even at less than 100%, gives the Bruins a significant edge at the most important position on the field.
Why Arizona State Might Win: UCLA isn’t the team everyone thought it was in the preseason.
Three weeks of mediocrity can only mean one thing—the Bruins are overrated. Their O-line is shaky, the D has produced just three sacks and the skill position players won’t unnerve the Sun Devil defenders. ASU has now had the requisite time for the rebuilt D to gel, and the physical offensive line is going to be a handful for a UCLA front that’s yet to prove anything in 2014. Bercovici is going to get a lot of help, from his teammates and the home crowd.
Who To Watch Out For: So who is Mike Bercovici? He’s a former top recruit from Calabasas, Calif., with a stronger arm than Kelly. The junior will get maximum RPMs on his throws, and his mobility has improved. Whether or not he can beat the Bruin defenders will hinge on his decision-making and his ability to adapt to changing looks throughout the game.
Obviously, UCLA wants to get in the new starting quarterback’s face. But who steps up and applies the pressure? DE Owa Odighizuwa has been a non-factor, and Deon Hollins disappeared after the opener. Plus, the Bruins can forget about penetrating the Sun Devils form the left side, where OT Jamil Douglas and OG Christian Westerman are fortresses.
Arizona State knows what it has on offense, quarterback aside. The D, though, is a question mark. All eight of last year’s all-stars have graduated, leaving head coach Todd Graham to reshuffle his deck. He’s going with an eclectic mix of rookies, LB DJ Calhoun and DL Tashon Smallwood and CB Armand Perry, JUCOs, Kweishi Brown, and veterans. The Sun Devil linemen, in particular, need to capitalize on UCLA’s problems up front.
UCLA doesn’t have any homerun hitters on offense, which means two things: The Sun Devil secondary won’t be afraid to take chances on occasion. And Jack will reprise his role as a dual-threat by handling carries. Whether it’s Hundley or Jerry Neuheisel on the mound, he’ll be busy working the intermediate routes by maximizing the size of receivers Jordan Payton, Devin Lucien, Eldridge Massington and Thomas Duarte.
What’s Going To Happen: UCLA is an overrated team. By Friday morning, it’ll be an overrated team with a blemish.
Kelly is irreplaceable at Arizona State. But the Sun Devils will be able to compensate with next-level skill players, a formidable O-line and a defense that’s going to play with a chip on its shoulder. ASU’s intensity, especially in Tempe, will be in stark contrast to the Bruins, who haven’t played passionately all season. Bercovici won’t be great. Neither will Hundley. Foster, Strong and a handful of frenetic defenders, though, are poised to make a loud Pac-12 statement in front of an equally home crowd.
Prediction: Arizona State 34 … UCLA 28
Line: UCLA -5 o/u: 59.5
Must Watch Factor: (5: Roosevelts: An Intimate History – 1: Red Band Society) … 4