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Arizona State Looks For Validation, UCLA Looks For Vindication

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The Arizona St. Sun Devils are right on track for an outstanding finish to the 2011 season. The UCLA Bruins are right there to mess everything up.

ASU is rolling along in conference play (outside of mishaps in Oregon in a game they so could have won). They've put the clamps on USC and Utah, survived an upset bid from Oregon State, and put down Colorado. Of course, three of those teams stink, and the Trojans kept on turning the ball over, so it's hard to say how impressive that 4-1 Pac-12 record is.

Meanwhile, UCLA ran all over a confused Cal squad on Saturday that didn't seem to understand how to control their gaps (and Zach Maynard helped a lot too). They're not likely to get that sort of luck from ASU's front seven, which is pretty good at turning your team into a two down offense (third down means you have a one in four shot).

The Bruins should have most of their receiving corps back, which should allow them to stretch things out and give Kevin Prince more options outside of handing it off and trying to get the edge. Most teams will not allow Kevin Prince to hit record highs, and the Sun Devils are probably one of them.

UCLA might want to cue up that tape of the ASU-Oregon game and take a look at how the Sun Devils wore down on running play after running play. Maybe it'd be be best to commit fully to the Pistol, control the ball, keep ASU's defense on the field, and throw as little as humanly possible. You could argue that UCLA's two most impressive victories of the last two years--Texas last year, Cal this year--came when the Bruins really committed themselves to the offense they installed.

(Well, that and all the turnovers.)

However, while the Bruins might be able to get things going on the ground, the big mismatch looks like the ASU offense against the UCLA defense. The Sun Devils are really good at spreading the field out and hitting receivers quickly ... just like Arizona. The Sun Devils love to run the trap play to put defenses off-balance ... just like Arizona. The Sun Devils have an accurate quarterback that can hit the zones the Bruins like to put up on the field ... just like Arizona.

UCLA could be in deep, deep trouble if they don't try and make huge adjustments from their strategy against the Wildcats. UCLA might be better suited either manning up against ASU and force the Sun Devils and Brock Osweiler to try and make big plays, or masking pressure fronts to try and make the Sun Devils offensive line (not particularly good again) try and compensate. UCLA's defense showed a lot of life against Cal in overwhelming their fronts, which could be a good sign that the lights are going on for a talented Bruins front four.

Here we are UCLA. Somehow here you are, a win away from first place in the Pac-12 South. And yes, you sure can win this thing. You're at home in the Rose Bowl, where you have been absolutely rock solid this season in conference play. You can do this. Right?