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UCLA vs. Arizona State: Bruins have no room for error vs. Sun Devils

The UCLA Bruins can prove a lot with a win on Saturday, but the inconsistent form they've displayed so far isn't likely to prove any points.

Doug Pensinger

At 5-2, the UCLA Bruins have had a season marked by an inconsistent style of play that's left fans wondering whether they're looking at a new era in Bruin football, or the same-old style that's driven them mad for so many years. They're likely to get a more clear picture in Sun Devil Stadium, as UCLA faces a serious road test in the Arizona St. Sun Devils. UCLA has had some games where they got away with sloppy play and serious mistakes, like the five turnovers they gave up in the win over Houston. They won't get away with anything on Saturday. Mistakes are likely to really cost them, and there's zero chance the Bruins get this one as a gift. A win makes them bowl eligible and puts them above .500 in Pac-12 play, and if they want that they're going to have to take it.

Arizona State is averaging 18.3 points against per game, No. 23 in the nation. They're holding opposing quarterbacks to a 90.8 rating, and they've collected 10 interceptions in their first seven games. They have 27 sacks. The Bruins have shown a lot of promise this year on offense, but they've also made some big missteps. They can't afford mistakes against ASU.

If UCLA is going to get anything going against a stingy Sun Devil defense, it's going to be on the ground. Johnathan Franklin has done an admirable job carrying the Bruins offense, and without a strong effort from him UCLA doesn't tend to get very far. He's averaging 146 yards per game in their wins, but only 73.5 in their two losses. Arizona State is allowing 168 yards per game on the ground, and their defensive line may be missing some key players. Will Sutton and Junior Onyeali might both miss the game, and if they play they're unlikely to be at full speed. Together, they've produced 11.5 sacks. Even if they miss the game, Brandon Magee (3.5 sacks) and Chris Young (2) still pose a serious threat. Whoever takes the field for the Sun Devils, UCLA should count on facing serious pressure in the backfield. Redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley is going to have to play conservative and make smart decisions, or he's going to have a long night.

On defense, the key for UCLA will be shutting down Taylor Kelly. The sophomore quarterback has a 66.7 percent completion rate, has 1693 yards with 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions, and leads the team in rushing attempts. The Bruins aren't playing lights-out defense, but if they can force the Sun Devil offense into a single dimension they will have a much better handle on the game.

Following Saturday's game, the schedule goes Arizona, Washington State, USC, and finally Stanford. The Bruins need a win. Without one, they'll be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks they can win those games, in the stands or on the field.