Washington St.-UCLA Preview
Given how it fared recently against one of the Pac-12's top passing teams, No. 18 UCLA is confident about its chances ahead of facing one of the best in the nation.
Looking to stay in the Pac-12 South title hunt, the Bruins will try to win their fourth in a row Saturday night by slowing visiting Washington State's "Air Raid" attack.
Facing a California team that ranked second in the conference with 355.3 passing yards per game on Oct. 22, UCLA (7-2, 4-2) allowed just 170 total yards in the first half and sacked star quarterback Jared Goff five times en route to a 40-24 victory in Pasadena.
After holding off Colorado on Oct. 31, the Bruins - who lead the Pac-12 with 199.4 passing yards allowed per game - held Oregon State to 131 through the air and forced four turnovers in a 41-0 rout last Saturday that was their first shutout since November 2007.
They remain tied with USC for second place, one game back of division leader Utah. UCLA visits the Trojans in its finale after traveling to No. 10 Utah on Nov. 21, but first it has to deal with a Washington State passing game that has surely earned its nickname.
"I just think it helps us having gone recently against a team like that, and having played well," Bruins coach Jim Mora said. "I think it gives us a little confidence in what we're doing, so we'll see. (WSU coach Mike Leach) is incredibly bright and has a great feel for what he wants to do on offense."
Luke Falk leads the nation with 415.1 passing yards per game, is tied for second with 33 touchdowns and ranks fifth with a 70.2 completion percentage. He needs two TDs to break the school's single-season record shared by Ryan Leaf (1997) and Connor Halliday (2013).
Falk was named Pac-12 player of the week for the third time this season after throwing for 497 yards and five scores in last Saturday's 38-24 home win over Arizona State.
Marks, who leads the Pac-12 with 69 catches and 11 TDs, needs three receptions to break Michael Bumpus' school record of 195 for his career.
The Cougars (6-3, 4-2) have averaged 41.6 points and 549.2 total yards while winning four of five. They also have their best record through nine games since they were 6-3 in 2006 and are tied with Oregon for second in the North behind league-unbeaten Stanford.
"We're still trying to improve," Leach said. "We're still trying to get better. I don't feel like we've played our best game. We've played some good ones. I think we can get better."
"We're shooting for being as perfect as we can."
UCLA has been no slouch offensively, tying a school record with five games of at least 500 total yards. The Bruins have averaged 38.7 points and 549.0 yards during their three-game win streak. Their 674 yards against the Beavers were their most since September 2013.
Freshman quarterback Josh Rosen, who completed 22 of 33 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns, has done a great job protecting the football with 131 consecutive passes since his last interception Oct. 15.
Behind an impressive performance by the team's improving offensive line, running backs Soso Jamabo and Paul Perkins teamed for 179 of UCLA's 284 rushing yards.
Though the Cougars rank second in the Pac-12 against the pass with 211.0 yards allowed per game, they've been vulnerable against the run, sitting 11th in the conference with an average of 206.1 allowed on the ground.
Washington State has dropped the past five meetings, though these teams haven't met since 2012. The Cougars have lost nine straight versus Top 25 teams since September 2013.