Head Coach: Rick Neuheisel
Record: 4-5 (1-5)
Offense: 20.3 PPG, 5.1 YPP
Like many of their Pac 10 brethren, the UCLA Bruins have chosen to go with youth at the quarterback position. Freshman Kevin Prince was named the starter at the beginning of the season over senior Kevin Craft. Craft still has had opportunities throughout the season, as Prince has missed time due to injury. In that time, Craft has put up numbers that are very comparable to Prince's.
In fact, the numbers are nearly identical. The two combined for over 300 yards in UCLA's last game vs. Washington and Prince three for over 300 against Oregon State two weeks ago, so it appears the Bruins may be hitting their stride in the passing game. Expect Prince to start on Saturday, as he returned to practice Tuesday after suffering an injury against the Huskies, but if Craft is forced to play there shouldn't be too much of a drop off.
The Bruin passing game has been forced to carry the offense so far this season, as the running game has struggled mightily. UCLA is picking up just 3.16 yards per carry. In an effort to improve, Neuheisel has named Sophomore Derrick Coleman the starting running back for Saturday's game against the Cougs. The Bruins should expect to see an improvement this week, as Washington State usually brings out the best in their opponents.
Going forward, changing the running back may not be the solution UCLA is looking for. Looking at the stats, it appears the offensive line has struggled, giving up 25 sacks on the season and that small yards per carry average quote above.
Whoever the starting quarterback is for UCLA is on Saturday, they should enjoy success. WSU has shown little ability to get in the backfield, and the they should have the time in the world to throw. Moving the ball on the ground should not be a difficult task either against Wazzu's depleted defensive line.
Defense: 23.0 PPG, 5.3 YPP
UCLA's defense has looked very stout at times, but overall is right around the nation's average in yards per play. They are not the dominating force that Paul Wulff made them out to be in his presser this week, but they do force turnovers and they do well against the passing game.
One of the players that has been key in pass defense and forcing turnovers is sophomore free safety Rahim Moore. He has been able to pick off a remarkable eight passes and also leads the UCLA with six pass breakups.
While Moore has been spectacular, Brian Price is man to watch for the Bruins on defense. At tackle, he is one of the top defensive players in the nation. He uses his 6'2". 300 pound frame to overpower offensive guards and also has a suprising amount of quickness and agility. He has used all this to rack up 13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks so far in 2009. Price will be in the Washington State backfield early and often on Saturday.
As is the norm, the Washington State offense will struggle on Saturday against a bigger and more athletic UCLA defense. Look for either Jeff Tuel or Marshall Lobbestael to be running for their lives and Dwight Tardy and company to struggle for yardage.
UCLA is in trouble with: Kenny Alfred is somehow able to neutralize Brian Price, freeing up the running game and giving Cougar quarterbacks more time to throw. Also, UCLA turns the ball over five times or more and the Cougs are able to turn at least two of those into scores. Then, we may have a game on our hands.
From the other side ...
For this week's interview with the opponent, Nuss caught up with Ryan Rosenblatt (aka ryebreadraz) from BruinsNation.com. Topics covered include the chances the Bruins stub their collective toe in Pullman, how the UCLA offense seems to be coming together, and what a beast Price is.
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