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First Look: Washington State at UCLA

UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel is on the coaching hot seat in Los Angeles with a 17-25 record in his fourth year. (Associated Press)
UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel is on the coaching hot seat in Los Angeles with a 17-25 record in his fourth year. (Associated Press)
Time: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Rose Bowl TV: Root Records: WSU (3-1, 1-0 in Pac-12); UCLA (2-3, 1-1) Last week: WSU defeated Colorado, 31-27; UCLA lost at Stanford, 45-19 Last time: UCLA defeated WSU in Pasadena, 42-28, in 2010 The line: UCLA by 3.5

What it means for WSU

How far have the Cougars come since last season? We will find out Saturday, in the only true rematch – same team, same venue – as last year. In that one, the Bruins ran over, around and through the WSU defense, posting 437 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. The Cougars rush defense has improved – after finishing 115th (220.3 yards per game) last year, it is 47th nationally right now (127.3) – but UCLA and its Pistol offense will test it more than any team this season.

What it means for UCLA

The right statement probably is, what it means for UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel. The former Bruins quarterback is in his fourth year and is just 17-25. While that record might fly elsewhere (Pullman?), it’s not getting it done in Los Angeles. A loss at home to the Cougars, still seen as the weaklings of the past three years in most fans’ eyes, would probably seal his fate.

Key matchup

UCLA running backs Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman vs. WSU’s linebackers. The Pistol offense forces defenders to be assignment sound, as the option attack uses any misstep to its advantage. But that’s only part of the problem Alex Hoffman-Ellis, C.J. Mizell and Sekope Kaufusi will face. Even if the three linebackers are in the right place at the right time, Franklin (5-foot-10, 193 pounds) and Coleman (6-foot, 240) are tough to bring down. The trio is going to need help from the guys in front and behind. The Bruins are second in the conference in rushing (199.4 yards per game) and that’s after putting up 141 against Stanford’s defense, tops in the conference. By the way, Franklin rumbled for 216 yards and Coleman another 185 against WSU last season.
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