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UCLA-Arizona State: What the Bruins must do in a must-win

Turnovers, the Sun Devils' speed and the health of punter Jeff Locke will all be factors as UCLA looks to earn a tie for first place in the Pac-12's South Division. Arizona State can all but wrap up the division with a win.

November 04, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince ran for 163 yards against California but will probably need to rely more on his arm to beat Arizona State.
UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince ran for 163 yards against California but… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

It's pretty simple. A victory over No. 20 Arizona State on Saturday and UCLA is tied for first place in the Pacific 12 Conference's South Division. The Sun Devils can all but wrap up the division -- and a place in the conference championship game -- with a win. Staff writer Chris Foster examines the game's issues and matchups:

Take it away

Turnovers are the key to winning -- and losing -- football games. Has there ever been a coach who didn't have that go-to line ready?

Arizona State has created 25 turnovers so far this season and ranks fifth nationally in turnover margin.

"They are aggressive," UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "It's lots of stripping, where they reach in and take it from you. They are fast and have a great pass rush, which can force you to throw the ball too early."

The Sun Devils have managed that without cornerback Omar Bolden and linebacker Brandon McGee, two of their best defensive players. Both are injured.

UCLA forced only nine turnovers in its first seven games, but came up with five in a 31-14 victory over California last week. Safety Tevin McDonald intercepted three passes.

Speed trap

UCLA had its most consistent defensive effort of the season last week against California. That was a product of better execution and massive tinkering.

Aramide Olaniyan, a 212-pound linebacker, was effective as a speed rusher on the defensive line despite giving up 80 to 90 pounds. Datone Jones moved from defensive end to defensive tackle. The Bruins at times employed six defensive backs.

More mixing and matching can be expected, as the Sun Devils present a new set of challenges.

"It's not an offense where people go down field, turn around and catch balls," Neuheisel said. "They are moving as they are catching. Their yards after-catch are impressive."

Neuheisel said Texas was the only UCLA opponent with as much speed, but, "they didn't use their speed like Arizona State does, in terms of spreading you out and letting their guys run."

At the controls

UCLA's Kevin Prince ran for 163 yards against California, and the Bruins had a total of 294 yards rushing.

UCLA will probably need to throw more this game, and Prince has struggled in that area this season.

Arizona State's Brock Osweiler is having a breakout season. At 6-foot-8, "he's a giant who sees over everything," Neuheisel said.

He also has a cadre of receivers to pick from, with three having 30 or more receptions.

Osweiler came off the bench with Arizona State trailing UCLA, 17-0, last season. He threw for 380 yards and four touchdowns in a 55-34 victory.

Frequent flying Miles

UCLA needs to keep track of No. 32 for the Sun Devils.

Arizona State's Jamal Miles has five touchdown receptions, has run for a touchdown and has returned both a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns this season.

Locke is key

The injury UCLA is most concerned with this week was sustained by punter Jeff Locke, who suffered a separated shoulder when he was blindsided against California.

Locke averages 44.9 yards per punt, 14th nationally. And, like real estate, what's most important is location, location, location. His punts had California starting drives from the one- and three-yard lines in the first half. Two other times, the Bears began inside the 15.

The Bruins want an advantage in field position, and Locke is the key. He did not kick during practice this week, but is expected to try in the game.

Locke's backup up is walk-on Michael Leamy.

chris.foster@latimes.com

UCLA;Category;ASU

24.8;scoring offense;35.9

31.9;scoring defense;21.5

196.2;pass offense;294.5

187.2;rush offense;144.2

383.5;total offense;438.8

238.6;pass defense;240.2

184.6;rush defense;141.0

423.2;total defense;381.2

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