Perkins hopes to run wild when No. 7 UCLA hosts Arizona St
So it's no surprise that this annual Pac-12 South matchup clearly means something special to Perkins, who averaged just under 9 yards per carry in his first two games against the Sun Devils.
The defending Pac-12 rushing champion gets his third chance Saturday at the Rose Bowl when No. 7 UCLA (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) looks to build on its outstanding start. Perkins also gets the bonus of being on the same field with little brother Bryce Perkins, the Sun Devils' freshman backup quarterback.
''Hopefully I get tackled or run out of bounds to their side so I get to see him,'' Paul Perkins said.
Perkins has 514 yards and six touchdowns in the first four games this season, taking pressure off freshman quarterback Josh Rosen and a UCLA defense that has already lost three key starters to season-ending injuries. Perkins and his offensive line have provided stability and consistency, but both will be tested by a desperate Arizona State defense still reeling from Southern California's 42-point performance last week.
Even after the Bruins' impressive win at Arizona and the Sun Devils' thrashing from the Trojans, UCLA has no illusions about the difficulty posed by Arizona State (2-2, 0-1), which clinched the Pac-12 South title with a 38-33 victory in its last trip to Pasadena in 2013.
''We still have to look at them with tremendous respect because they can definitely come here and beat us,'' Perkins said.
Although Perkins still doesn't have the national fame of other top tailbacks, coach Todd Graham knows all about the hometown kid who committed to UCLA about 10 days before Graham was hired at Arizona State.
''There's not anybody that I would rank in front of him,'' Graham said. ''I think Perkins, to this point, has been playing at an MVP caliber in the league. He is just as solid as they get: His balance, his vision and his strength. He's just a guy that's really strong. He breaks a lot of first tackles.''
Here are some other things to watch at the Rose Bowl:
REBOUNDING ABILITIES: Arizona State has been resilient during Graham's four-season tenure. The Sun Devils haven't lost back-to-back games in the regular season since 2012, Graham's first year, and they rebounded impressively from several previous blowout defeats. ''Obviously our guys know that our backs are against the wall,'' Graham said.
DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE: UCLA is attracting attention as an early College Football Playoff candidate, but the Bruins don't care. ''We don't even talk about it,'' receiver Jordan Payton said. ''We've been No. 7 before. We've been in situations where we started to talk about it and got hit in the mouth the next week. Now it's time to just be mature about it, understand where you're at, and go out and attack every game.''
RUN THIS WAY: The Bruins have rushed for at least 100 yards in 24 consecutive games, but Graham said run defense is ''a strong point'' for the Sun Devils. Perkins isn't UCLA's only ball-carrying threat, however: Speedy freshman SoSo Jamabo has broken off three runs longer than 20 yards already, and he scored his first touchdown last week at Arizona.
DEPTH CHARGE: UCLA lost Myles Jack, Eddie Vanderdoes and Fabian Moreau to injuries in the first month of the season, but the Bruins are unbeaten heading into October thanks to the depth built up by coach Jim Mora's staff in his four seasons. ''I trust the next guy to come in,'' linebacker Kenny Young said. ''Because that's one thing we have at linebacker is great depth and guys who can play. It was good to get the W, but with (Jack) being out, it felt a little bit different. The guys got the job done.''
FOSTER AND PEOPLE: Arizona State receiver D.J. Foster is likely to break two school records held by John Jefferson. With a catch at the Rose Bowl, he will have a reception in his 45th consecutive game, surpassing Jefferson's mark. With four receptions, he will pass Jefferson's 188 career catches for second place in school history, trailing only Derek Hagan's 258 catches.