From 2007 through 2011, the Arizona Wildcats ran off five straight wins over the UCLA Bruins. The Bruins returned the favor with a streak spanning 2012 through 2016. The two have since traded wins, including a pair that came down to the last possession in 2018 and 2019.
UCLA aims to continue that trend on Saturday night when the teams meet at the Rose Bowl after last year's defeat on a missed, last-second field goal in Tucson. For sputtering Arizona, which has lost its last nine dating back to 2019, the Wildcats are trying to snap that skid as well as a streak of defeats in the Rose Bowl dating back to 2012.
Arizona at UCLA
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: UCLA -9.5
When Arizona Has the Ball
Despite the heartbreaking circumstances of its season-opening loss to USC, Grant Gunnell and Gary Brightwell gave Arizona reason for optimism. The sophomore Gunnell showed off the arm that made him a coveted recruit, as well as some impressive mobility. Brightwell ran hard and effectively as the No. 1 running back.
Then, the Washington game happened.
Arizona averaged just 2.8 yards per carry against a stout Huskies defensive front. Gunnell passed for 259 yards and three touchdowns, but the scores came largely in garbage time. The trip to Husky Stadium was a significant regression back to the poor play of the latter half of 2019, after the promising showing against USC.
Against UCLA, Arizona can expect a similar attack to what it saw at Washington. The Bruins have been excellent against the run, thanks in large part to the outstanding play of defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa. His ability to wreak havoc in the backfield sets the tone. Gunnell will have to counter with an effective deep passing game early; reliance on the short dump-offs Arizona tried to use at Washington will produce a similar result.
When UCLA Has the Ball
With Dorian Thompson-Robinson sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols, Chase Griffin stepped in and played well at Oregon. The athletic Griffin threw two interceptions, but one was a Hail Mary attempt that Oregon turned into a pick-six, a freakish play unlikely to be duplicated anywhere the rest of this season.
Thompson-Robinson's status is up in the air, so Griffin could be behind center again. Expect UCLA to rely heavily on the run game, in particular standout Demetric Felton. Felton appeared sparingly at Arizona last season, so he has time to make up. Felton's conversion to running back from wide receiver has been a revelation for the Bruins and takes nothing away from the corps of pass-catchers.
Chief to watch among those targets on Saturday will be tight end Greg Dulcich. Chip Kelly's offense has long made effective use of tight ends, including at UCLA with Caleb Wilson and Devin Asiasi. Dulcich, like Wilson in 2018, has emerged as the top target — and, against an Arizona defense that was utterly abused by tight end passes at Washington, could be in line for a career-best day.
Arizona's play against USC looked like a whole new team compared to late 2019, in particular with its improved tackling and effective blocking. Both areas regressed at Washington. Whether that's the result of the opponent or more indicative of Arizona backsliding in old habits should be evident quickly at UCLA.
The Bruins play against Cal and Oregon suggests the program is turning a corner under Kelly. Saturday's game is an important milestone: Take care of business against the Wildcats, and the Bruins could be on track for a 3-0 finish down the stretch of the irregular regular season.
Prediction: UCLA 38, Arizona 27
Podcast: Week 13 Preview and Predictions + Interview with Kirk Herbstreit
— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.