By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The huge matchup between USC and Oregon won't be the only Pac-12
conference game that features a pair of ranked teams this weekend, as recent
additions to the top-25, Arizona and UCLA, will battle at the Rose Bowl on
Arizona roared back to down USC last weekend with Matt Scott accounting for
469 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. The now 24th-ranked Wildcats
had trailed 28-13 as late as 11 minutes into the third quarter but Scott took
over and rallied the Wildcats to the win.
"I'm really proud of our guys. They hung in there," head coach Rich Rodriguez
said, "I think it's just good to win a close game because it gets our guys to
believe in themselves."
The Wildcats have been inconsistent, with the team looking unstoppable at
times and horrendous at others. The disparity has been evident when looking at
the team's home record (5-1) versus its road record (0-2).
UCLA will also be riding the momentum of a heart-stopping victory that pushed
it into the national rankings. A 33-yard field goal from Kai'imi Fairbairn as
time expired gave UCLA a 45-43 victory over Arizona State moving the Bruins to
6-2 overall this season and 3-2 in conference play, while putting them back in
"I think it's a sign that we are maturing as a football team and believing in
the systems," head coach Jim Mora said. "There are going to be some games like
this where they are shootouts."
History is on the side of the Bruins in this matchup. UCLA has won 11 of the
total 17 meetings between the squads, although last season that didn't seem to
matter as the Wildcats rolled to a 48-12 win. UCLA hasn't actually gotten a
win against Arizona since 2006.
Rodriguez can count himself lucky that he has had Scott to rely on this
season. Although he has struggled at times, just like the rest of the team,
Scott has been able to run Rodriguez's system effectively and has helped
Arizona rise to the top of the conference in total offense (553.6 ypg). That
is pretty impressive in a conference that features teams like Oregon and USC.
Scott has thrown for 2,724 yards, while completing 62.9 percent of his pass
attempts. His 20 touchdowns are more than double his interception total
(nine). Scott has been far and away the most productive quarterback in the
conference, averaging 340.5 passing yards per game. No other signal caller in
the conference is even near that, with All-American Matt Barkley ranked second
at 283.3 yards per game.
Scott isn't just dangerous through the air but also on the ground. He has had
no issue getting out of pocket and picking up yards on both designed runs and
when the pocket collapses, piling up 365 yards and four scores rushing.
"Matt is a warrior. He gets yards for us when we need it. He runs well and he
also has a great arm and gets the ball to receivers perfectly," wideout Austin
Hill said. "He gets better every week."
Ka'Deem Carey though has been the real lightening rod out of the backfield,
rushing for 961 yards and 12 touchdowns. Carey is the third most prolific
rusher in the conference.
With Scott tossing it around at such a high rate Arizona receivers have put up
some impressive numbers. None has been as productive as Austin Hill, who has
racked up 937 yards and seven touchdowns on 54 receptions. His yardage total
is the second most in the conference. Dan Buckner has also been a constant
threat with 51 receptions for 656 yards and three scores.
Even though it was a shootout against USC, the Wildcat defense did its job in
terms of capitalizing on mistakes. Arizona forced three fumbles and collected
an interception in the win and now has a turnover margin of plus-four this
season. Making sure to take advantage when other offenses falter is a key for
Arizona, which is second to last in the Pac-12 in both total defense (483.9
ypg) and scoring defense (31.1 ppg).
On an individual level, Jake Fischer has been the standout in terms of
tackling with a team-high 72. Marquis Flowers has been a menace to opposing
ball carriers with 55 total tackles, 7.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks. Flowers has
also contributed against the pass with a pair of interceptions. Tra'Mayne
Bondurant has racked up a team-high 10.5 tackles for loss.
Dual threat quarterbacks and potent offenses are things UCLA can appreciate.
Led by freshman quarterback Brett Hundley, the Bruins have been the third best
offense in the conference, piling up 502.9 yards on a weekly basis. The Bruins
can also score at a high rate with the team good for 33.4 points per game.
Hundley has had some growing pains, but on the whole, he has been fantastic.
He has completed a stellar 66.4 percent of his passes for 2,190 yards and 18
touchdowns to eight interceptions. Like Scott, Hundley has no problem tucking
the ball and running, with five rushing touchdowns on the season and 267 yards
on the ground.
The real workhorse for the offense is running back Johnathan Franklin. He has
rushed for a conference-high 1,042 yards this season and is averaging strong
marks of 6.7 yards per carry and 130.2 yards per game. Franklin was dominant
in the win over Arizona State, racking up 164 yards on 26 carries with two key
Shaquelle Evans is the team's best receiver this season, bringing in 33
receptions for 488 yards (both team-highs). Hundley has relied more heavily on
Joseph Fauria though close to the end zone, with six of Fauria's 22 receptions
this season ending up as touchdowns.
Like Arizona, UCLA is normally involved in shootouts with opposing squads
which has made its defensive numbers look less than stellar (416.1 ypg, 25.1
ppg). Creating negative plays has helped keep opposing teams at bay with the
Bruins recording the third most tackles for loss (60) and sacks (28) in the
Eric Kendricks has led the team from his spot in the linebacking corps with 74
tackles this season. Anthony Barr meanwhile, has really terrorized opposing
teams with 12.0 tackles for loss, including 8.5 sacks. Those are both the top
marks in the conference. Datone Jones (12.0 sacks, 4.0 tackles for loss) can't
be ignored either on the front line.
This game promises to feature plenty of offense. Scott versus Hundley and
Carey versus Franklin are matchups that pit some of the best players at those
positions in the conference and maybe even the country. In the end, UCLA's
ability to get in the backfield might be enough to slow the Wildcats down just
enough to edge out a win.