First look: WSU at UCLA
Time: 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Records: WSU (1-3, 0-1 Pac-10); UCLA (2-2, 0-1)
Last week: Washington State lost to Southern Cal, 50-16; UCLA defeated Texas, 34-12
Last time: UCLA defeated WSU, 43-7, in Pullman in 2009.
The line: UCLA by 27
What it means for WSU: The Cougars must be able to answer this question in the affirmative: Can you tackle? If they show they can, then they have a shot at controlling the Bruins offense. And that would give them hope for the rest of the Pac-10 schedule, something that is in short supply right now. After the Bruins, No. 4 Oregon and No. 14 Arizona come to town, followed by a trip to No. 9 Stanford. Without a strong showing against the Bruins, the next month could be hell.
What it means for UCLA: The Bruins have reinvented themselves the past two weeks, upsetting two ranked teams, one in the Rose Bowl, the other on the road. Now they have to show they can stay consistent against an overmatched foe. UCLA travels to Cal next week and, after USC, the Bears are the Bruins’ second-best rivalry. There is no question UCLA will be looking past the Cougars. The question is, can they stay focused enough to win a game they should win?
Key matchup: UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin and Kevin Prince vs. WSU’s Myron Beck and Alex Hoffman-Ellis.
The Bruins seem to have finally figured out the pistol offense is a run-based option attack, not a let-it-fly shotgun-like spread. The quarterback, in this case Prince, must read the defensive front and, depending on the positioning, either give the ball to the tailback, most notably starter Franklin (409 yards rushing with a 5.9 yards-per-carry average), or keep it. It worked so well last week against then-No. 7 Texas the Bruins threw just nine times (completing five) for 25 yards, but still racked up almost 300 yards in total offense. UCLA has run 107 times in the last two games, both wins. Outside linebackers Beck and Hoffman-Ellis not only have to be disciplined, they must be near-perfect in tackling Prince, if he keeps it, and Franklin, if he doesn’t.