The UCLA Bruins have their work cut out for them on Saturday afternoon in their battle for Pac-12 South supremacy against the Arizona St. Sun Devils at the Rose Bowl. With a win, UCLA (4-4, 3-2) would tie Arizona St. (6-2, 4-1) atop the Pac-12 Southern Division and hold the tiebreaker. But to do so, the Bruins will need to win the turnover battle.
The Sun Devils rank fifth nationally and first in the conference with a turnover margin of +1.50 per game. Arizona St. has recovered 12 fumbles and intercepted 13 passes, both tops in the Pac-12, a trend not lost on UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel. "They're aggressive. There is lots of stripping, where they just reach in and take it from you. They are certainly fast with a great pass rush that can force the ball thrown a little early," Neuheisel said after practice on Thursday.
"They've been ballhawks in the back end, with a lot of interceptions. Watching them play, I just watched the end of the USC game. That was the difference in the game were the turnovers, especially down in the red zone," said Neuheisel.
UCLA quarterbacks have thrown just four interceptions this season, tied with Stanford for the fewest in the conference. They have also thrown the fewest passing attempts in the conference, with 196, including just 18 in last Saturday's win over Cal.
The Bruins' best hope is to utilize the ground game, as they are third in the Pac-12 in both rushing yards and yards per carry this season. They have also lost a conference-worst 10 fumbles, which will need to improve against Arizona State. "It's going to be key to our success to take care of the football," Neuheisel said.
Saturday's 4:30 p.m. game will be televised by Versus. For more on UCLA football, head to Bruins Nation.