It’s time for the UCLA Bruins (3-2) to shake off the bye week rust as they travel to Tucson, Arizona to play the Arizona Wildcats (3-2).
Who would have guessed that UCLA and Arizona would have the same record going into their matchup? Arizona’s over/under before the season was 4.5 and they have a great chance to smash that and even potentially make a bowl game. The Wildcats found their quarterback in Khalil Tate who apparently is Michael Vick now. Against Colorado, Tate ran for 327 yards, four touchdowns on only 14 carries. On top of that he was extremely efficient in the passing game by going 12 of 13 for 153 yards and another touchdown. An injury to starting quarterback, Brandon Dawkins, forced Tate into action and it may have been a blessing. UCLA should be terrified to play Tate.
Tate’s ability to run will give UCLA problems all night if they cannot contain him. The defense looked much improved against Colorado. Only giving up 23 to the Buffs is tied for lowest point total given up this season. Arizona gave up 42 points to the same Buffalo offense just last week. This is the defense that UCLA fans all hope can show up more often going forward. If their defense can hold teams to under 24 points in a week by week bias then the wins will start flooding in. I am tentatively confident in the defense now, if they can build off their performance with a week to prepare against a solid Arizona team then I will be impressed.
As for the offense, Josh Rosen had an average performance against the Buffs. 28 for 45, 372 yards, one touchdown and one interception is solid performance for most but for how much the Bruins lean on Rosen, they need better. Interceptions are unacceptable and have to be avoided at all costs for UCLA to be successful. Most of them aren’t Rosen’s fault due to receivers dropping balls or tipped passes but trying to do too much is one of Rosen’s major flaws. Rosen’s motto every week should be “Live to fight another down”. Soso Jamabo has given the offense some much needed balance as well. 76 yards on 21 attempts is much improved on what the running game was last year. The loss of Jalen Starks due to a knee injury doesn’t help but Darren Andrews can fill his role. We might even see Bolu Olorunfunmi who may have been banished to the dark zone for all we know.
This game is critical for the Bruins and with a bye week to prepare for the Wildcats this can be a solid away win for the Bruins. But, if Tate runs wild again and the away atmosphere is too much for the defense to handle we could be in store for another Pac-12 shootout. I’ll go with a 27-20 victory for the Bruins.