Best Worst Game Of The Week: Arizona State v. UCLA

I’m starting to get good at picking these Best Worst Games Of The Week. Last week, the Cowboys of Wyoming were able to oust Colorado State, despite being a closer score than I anticipated.

As the end of the regular season is within sight, and with basketball just around the corner, I’m tossing around the idea of highlighting really bad bowl games for fun. Let me know if that’s something you’d actually read or not.

Anywho, back to this week’s BWGOTW, which is a matchup of the mediocre in the PAC-12. Let’s zero in on Arizona State (5-4) at UCLA (4-5).

In terms of all of their athletics, UCLA has had an interesting year. The Ball family has basically taken over that campus’s basketball headlines, with the latest news being the middle Ball brother, LiAngelo, shoplifting with some teammates on a team trip in China. Oops.

In the football world, the Bruins sorta enjoy the presence of a consensus top-2 quarterback prospect in Josh Rosen (featured). The junior has thrown for  over 2,700 yards this season with 20 touchdowns and 8 picks. He has some of the cleanest footwork and overall mechanics seen at the collegiate level in a long time. He’s garnered the nickname “The Rosen One” because of how high his ceiling seems to be. I’m not quite sure why people would have USC quarterback Sam Darnold ranked higher…

… other than the fact that Rosen hasn’t done as much winning through nearly three years at UCLA as one might expect. He’s 15-12 in his career with one bowl appearance, a loss to Nebraska his freshman season. I’m in the mindset that elite quarterbacks make their teammates better, and I don’t think you can argue that Rosen has done so.

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As far as the rest of the Bruins offense goes, Rosen’s favorite target this year has been Darren Andrews (above), he of 60 catches for 10 touchdowns. The two have been cogs in a unit that puts up about 450 yards per game.

The issues for UCLA have mainly come from a bad defense (490 yards per game, 39 points per game).

Arizona State just hasn’t been a good football program in recent history, but here they sit, at 5-4 and in position to make a bowl game. The Sun Devils’ quarterback, junior Manny Wilkins (below), hasn’t lit anyone up, but he’s been efficient. Wilkins has thrown for 11 touchdowns to only 3 picks, he’s completing passes at a 64% clip, and he’s contributed 5 more scores on the ground.

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While leaning more on the pass, ASU relies on a relatively balanced attack offensively. They keep games close (they average 29 points per game while giving up 31), and they’ve even managed some impressive wins. Most notably, this is the team that was able to upset Washington, who was #5 in the country at the time, by a score of 13-7.

In that matchup, Wilkins was able to hook up with wideout N’Keal Harry 9 times, often when it was necessary to move the chains. In two of their three scoring drives that day, the Sun Devils were able to eat up significant clock. For a team that isn’t excellent defensively, it’ll be important to keep Rosen off the field as much as possible.

I’m going back and forth with this game, but I think ultimately I’m going with Arizona State. They do not have a formidable running attack, but they are going against a defense that gives up over 300 rushing yards per game. They don’t need to carve the Bruins up with the ground game; they need to simply keep Rosen on the sidelines, where he can’t hurt them.

This game will be this Saturday at 9:30 pm. You could either check it out on the PAC-12 Network, or you could make a trip to Pasadena, CA, where tickets start at $24.

 

Cover photo from Pro Football Focus.

Other media from Go Joe Bruin, AZ Family.

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