The Bruins and Wildcats are set to face off in a Pac-12 South divisional matchup that could define both team's seasons.
UCLA football (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) will play Arizona (0-4, 0-1) at Arizona Stadium on Saturday. The teams have split their last two meetings, but the Bruins have won seven of the last nine and own a solid 26-17-2 lead in the all-time series. UCLA is a 16-point favorite to win, as of Friday morning.
All Bruins is making its picks for who will win, what the score will be and how the game will play out, courtesy of Managing Editor Sam Connon, contributing writer Benjamin Royer and guest predictor Matt Wagner from Dodgers Tailgate, formerly of Go Joe Bruin.
Sam Connon, Managing Editor
Prediction: UCLA 34, Arizona 21
The hope of the Bruin faithful has been almost entirely drained just five games into the season, and that’s with the team still boasting a winning record.
It isn’t that this UCLA team is bad – far from it, actually. Their offense is still top-30 in the country scoring and they have probably the best cumulative talent at quarterback, running back, tight end and slot receiver in the Pac-12. And again, the Bruins are still over .500.
But they’ve lost two of three and the defense has regressed to where it was in 2019.
If you told someone back on Sept. 17 that this Arizona game wasn’t going to be a gimme, they would probably tell you you’re insane. Unless they were a UCLA fan, and then they probably could have conceived a future in which their Bruins stumbled after a hot start and were fighting for their lives just a month after they had secured the praise and attention of the nation.
All of that being said, UCLA hasn’t fallen far enough where they would lose to an Arizona team with a first-year head coach struggling to field an FBS-level team. Arizona is as bad as they’ve probably ever been, and UCLA should at least be better than that.
The Bruins’ inconsistency makes predictions difficult on a week-to-week basis, but I still feel at least somewhat comfortable picking them to beat the Wildcats on Saturday.
Benjamin Royer, contributing writer
Prediction: UCLA 44, Arizona 10
Teams of UCLA past would probably drag themselves into Tucson after a disappointing loss and have a repeat of the weekend prior.
The experience of this Bruin squad should have the mental awareness to separate the results and focus on the games ahead.
Yes, the second half versus Arizona State left a lot to be desired, but the Bruins are still prepared enough to play a Wildcats team that is much worse than the rest of the conference. Jedd Fisch’s winless squad ranks at the seventh-worst offensive team in the NCAA, averaging just 17 points a game. Defensively, they are not great either. Giving up 31 points a game, the Bruins should try and push that number even higher Saturday night.
Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson carried the offensive workload while not at 100% last week. This time, running backs Zach Charbonnet and Britain Brown will power into the end zone often, with Arizona having very few answers on defense, especially in the run game. If the Bruins are able to score to expectations, backup quarterback Ethan Garbers might get another opportunity to play a few drives and stay fresh.
On the defensive side of the ball, Saturday should provide the core group of secondary personal with an easier night than in past weeks. There should not be much stress heading into the game, but if they are unable to stop Arizona from getting consecutive first downs throughout the night, UCLA fans should start to get much more worried than they already are.
This game is a test of can UCLA take care of a team that is honestly just much less experienced and skilled than they are. If the Bruins are able to come out on top in convincing fashion, it would bring some hope for next week’s showing against another offensively challenged team with Washington.
Increasing the morale of both the team and fanbase with a victory in the desert, that's what's on the line Saturday.
Matt Wagner, Staff Writer at Dodgers Tailgate
Prediction: UCLA 38, Arizona 20
Following a 2-0 start where it looked like UCLA was turning the corner after wins over Hawaii and LSU, the Bruins’ usual concerns have come back to haunt them. Soft coverage in the secondary led to two losses for UCLA, with a win over Stanford sandwiched in between.
That said, the offense has been potent to start the season, led by a solid rushing attack from Charbonnet and Brown. Thompson-Robinson has been solid so far, and while he has made some bad plays at times, he’s been a good game manager for UCLA this season in the passing game, all while being a gamebreaker when running the ball.
Arizona, on the other hand, has been lifeless to start the season. They’re off to an 0-4 start this year – including a home loss to FCS opponent Northern Arizona – and haven’t done much at all to inspire confidence. They rank eighth in the Pac-12 in total offense and last in rushing with running backs Drake Anderson and Michael Wiley leading the underwhelming effort there. Their one saving grace could be their passing game, which ranks third in the conference in yards per game at 254.
But if UCLA’s blitz is able to get home against Arizona quarterback Jordan McCloud – who was just named the starter going forward by coach Fisch last week – it could be a long day for the Wildcats and the Bruins will likely head out of the desert with a win.
Follow Connon on Twitter at @SamConnon
Follow Royer on Twitter at @thebenroyer
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