Arizona seeks its first win over UCLA in six years
From 2007 through 2011, Arizona went undefeated against conference counterpart UCLA. The run of Wildcat victories actually started in 2005, when a two-win Arizona bunch stunned then-No. 5-ranked and undefeated UCLA in a game that effectively removed the Bruins from Bowl Championship Series consideration.
When head coaches Jim Mora and Rich Rodriguez arrived at UCLA and Arizona in 2012, however, the tables turned. The Bruins are undefeated against the Wildcats since then, boasting an average margin of victory of 23.6 points per game in that five-game run.
Mora says he can't pinpoint exactly why his teams have been so good against Arizona — but they certainly have. The Bruins aim to keep their streak going, this time against an Arizona bunch that may have found a new groove after its road win last week over Colorado.
UCLA at Arizona
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 14 at 9 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: UCLA -1
Three Things to Watch
1. "The Magic Man"
Arizona radio play-by-play broadcaster Brian Jeffries referred to quarterback Khalil Tate as "the magic man" during one of Tate's four touchdown rushes Oct. 7 at Colorado. The Arizona backup — yes, backup — came on for Brandon Dawkins to set an FBS quarterback rushing record of 327 yards with four scores on the ground, and a fifth through the air.
Tate's ability to effectively use the pass as a supplement to Arizona's multifaceted run game can force a defense to respect the threat — and with UCLA coming in ranked next to last nationally stopping the run, that could be a problem.
2. Air Rosen
In five games, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen (above, right) has posted more passing yards (2,135) than any other player in college football. Rodriguez has certainly taken note of the quarterback's terrific play. "I'm glad he can go to the [NFL] draft," Rodriguez said. "He needs to go."
Before playing on Sundays, Rosen can give Arizona fits for one last Saturday, and he'll target a wide variety of pass catchers to do so. UCLA will be without tight end Caleb Wilson, the team's second-leading receiver through the first five games, but big-play threat Darren Andrews and consistent target Jordan Lasley should test a pass defense that is giving up almost 290 yards per game through the air.
3. One stop to victory
Despite a couple of offensively sluggish outings against Houston and Utah, Arizona showed it could put points on the board in the win at Colorado. The Wildcats also have a couple of 60-plus point performances in routs of Northern Arizona and UTEP.
UCLA, meanwhile, has scored 45 or more in three contests — like Arizona — and the Bruins are averaging 41.4 points per game. That's 16th in the nation, one spot behind the Wildcats.
Both have had a few defensively woeful performances, too. UCLA surrendered 44 or more three times. Arizona has actually improved its defense by leaps and bounds this season; the defense gave it a chance to beat both Houston and Utah. But at Colorado — a team UCLA held to 23 points — running back Phillip Lindsay gashed the Arizona defense en route to the Buffs putting up 42.
Both teams are vulnerable on defense, but one key defensive stop could be the key to victory.
Arizona and UCLA combined for just seven wins a season ago; they have six combined coming into this game. Needless to say, both teams are dramatically improved from 2016. The winner will head into the season's second half at 4-2 and above .500 in Pac-12 play, with a real opportunity to make noise in the South division.
UCLA has dominated the series since Mora took over, but the matchups have always favored the Bruins. This year looks like the exception. Arizona's multidimensional rushing attack should be able to take advantage of a Bruin defense ranked No. 129 in FBS stopping the run.
Arizona's defense has made considerable strides this season, although slowing Rosen and the passing attack could prove difficult. Still, the Wildcats have shown an ability to rise up on that side of the ball, even in the two losses. This time, Arizona should get just enough defense for a win.
Prediction: Arizona 44, UCLA 40