(12) Arizona Wildcats at (22) UCLA Bruins (-4.5, 58 o/u)
With just one loss on their record, the No. 12 Arizona Wildcats (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) have an outside shot at making the four-team College Football Playoff. However, with that loss coming at home to the now-unranked USC Trojans, the Wildcats know they not only need to win out, but also need to look good doing it. They have a great chance to win some hearts and minds on the Selection Committee this Saturday at the Rose Bowl when they visit the No. 22 UCLA Bruins (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) (10 p.m. Eastern).
The Bruins, on the other hand, know they have no chance at a playoff berth this season, with two losses on their resume already. But they still have a shot at the Pac-12 Championship and would love a place in a good bowl game at the end of the year; they can solidify their chances at both with a top-15 win over a conference opponent.
Arizona has the 13th best scoring offense in the nation, but the 81st ranked defense. This week, they’ll face Bruins QB Brent Hundley, who presents immense challenges for even the best defenses.
“The biggest difference preparing for him is his willingness to run, and when he does run, he is fast,” Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez said. “He is a big guy that breaks a lot of tackles. You will see a lot of times that someone thinks they’ve got him pinned up or tackled, but he will break through an arm tackle.”
Arizona’s biggest win on the season, by far, came on the road against then-No.2 Oregon. The Ducks QB, Marcus Mariota, bears some similarities to Hundley. Both are big yet extremely mobile in the pocket, and neither hesitates to move the sticks with his feet. The Wildcats were able to slow the prolific Ducks offense by knifing through Oregon’s swiss-cheese O-line and putting constant pressure on Mariota. Arizona will have a chance to do something similar against a UCLA team that has surrendered 26 sacks on the year, eighth worst in the nation.
UCLA is a respectable 6-2 on the year and is coming off back-to-back road wins over Cal and Colorado. But UCLA did not look dominant in either and, in reality, have not put together a complete game in the last four weeks (i.e. since they trounced Arizona State 62-27 at Sun Devil Stadium). As far as Hundley is concerned, though, a win is a win.
“There have been tight games, but we have pulled through in a lot of them, and (we) understand that we still have the opportunity to do what we need to do and to get to where we want to go, which is the Pac-12 championship,” Hundley said. “We can still do it.”
The Bruins are currently 4.5-point favorites. Arizona will be motivated to impress the Selection Committee and has proved itself capable of containing a mobile QB. With UCLA struggling to play 60-minutes of late, taking Arizona and the points looks like the better play.