GAME NOTES: With a critical showdown with Arizona State looming, the 13th- ranked UCLA Bruins will battle a tough Washington Huskies squad in a Pac-12 skirmish at the Rose Bowl on Friday.
Last weekend the Huskies got back to the type of success they had to begin the season as they posted 628 yards of total offense en route to a 59-7 rout of Colorado in Seattle. It was the fifth time this year the Huskies had surpassed 500 yards but the second time since doing so in the first three weeks of the campaign. Washington enters play on Friday with a 6-3 overall record, ensuring a bowl appearance.
As for UCLA, the Bruins have recovered from their stumbles at the end of October against Oregon and Stanford with back-to-back wins in the last two weeks. The most recent victory was a 31-26 triumph over a strong Arizona squad in Tucson. The surge from the Bruins has improved their overall record to 7-2 and to a No. 13 spot in the Top 25. None of that matters though as despite being eight spots ahead of Arizona State in the national rankings, the Bruins are still a game back of the Sun Devils in the Pac-12 South.
"I feel good. I think we are in second right now in the Pac-12 South and we'll get a chance to play ASU," UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley said. "Right now as long as we keep winning games we control our own destiny and where we are going."
Controlling their destiny will involve a challenge from Washington. Historically speaking, UCLA has the edge with 38 wins in 69 all-time meetings. However, last time these teams met, during the 2010 season, the Huskies grabbed a 24-7 victory.
To say that Washington dominated Colorado last week would be an understatement. The Huskies not only finished with 628 yards of total offense, they also held Colorado to just 299, while having a huge advantage in first downs (28-15) and a three-yard edge in yards per play.
Keith Price looked more comfortable under center than he has in some time as he threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns on 22-of-29 passing. Price has been dealing with a thumb issue all season but is still putting together an extremely efficient campaign. He is completing better than 65 percent of his pass attempts for 2,481 yards and 18 touchdowns, while only being picked off four times. Price seemed less affected by the nagging thumb injury against Colorado, which could spell big things for the Huskies on offense.
Bishop Sankey was another big part of the Washington offense against Colorado, as he has been all year. Sankey rushed for 143 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. It was really just another day at the office for the Huskies' leading rusher. On the year, Sankey is averaging just under six yards per carry, while having racked up 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns on 222 total attempts. Sankey is tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns and is second in rushing yards per game (145) behind Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins had one of his best games of the year as well against Colorado. The Washington tight end matched a season-high with 62 yards, while also scoring a touchdown on just three catches. Seferian-Jenkins (23 receptions, 306 yards, five TDs) has been one of Price's favorite targets in the red zone. Jaydon Mickens (50 receptions, 614 yards, four TDs) and Kevin Smith (35 receptions, 559 yards, three TDs) are other major targets especially with Kasen Williams out for the remainder of the season.
"When you lose Kasen, who is a talented guy especially on those one-on-ones, we found some things there to get (Seferian-Jenkins) some one-on-one opportunities," Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian said after the win over Colorado. "If the game hadn't gone the way it had gone, he probably would have gotten more."
As far as defense goes the Huskies are among the top half of the Pac-12, ranking fifth in yards allowed (381.9 ypg) and fourth in scoring defense (21.8 ppg). In the win over Colorado the unit looked better than it has all year in holding the Buffaloes to just 4.8 yards per play, while forcing three turnovers. Sean Parker had a sack and an interception, his team-leading fourth of the year. Hau'oli Kikaha (6.0 sacks) didn't get to the quarterback on Saturday but is the team's leading pass rusher.
There are so many strong offensive teams in the Pac-12 that even being in the upper half of the league in total offense, as UCLA is (463.6 ypg), still requires quite a potent attack. The Bruins have reaped the benefits on the scoreboard as well, averaging a healthy 36.6 points per game.
Multi-talented quarterback Brett Hundley is at the helm for the Bruins. Hundley had a solid game against Arizona, completing 18-of-25 pass attempts for 227 yards and two touchdowns. It was a nearly identical output from the previous week's win over Colorado. Consistency like that has been the norm for Hundley, who despite stumbles against Stanford and Oregon, has largely been as steady as any quarterback in the country. Overall this season he has thrown for 2,225 yards and 18 touchdowns, completing 68.5 percent of his pass attempts. There have been eight interceptions, but he has not had one in the past two games.
It would be difficult enough to defend Hundley if all he did was pass. Unfortunately for UCLA's foes, Hundley is a major threat on the ground. He has rushed for a team-high 487 yards and seven touchdowns this season and has had at least once score and 50 yards in the last three games. Paul Perkins (390 yards, three TDs) and Myles Jack, who rushed for 120 yards and a score on six carries in his first game of the season last week, man the backfield since Jordon James (471 yards, five TDs) has been out in four of the last five games due to injury.
The receivers on the end of most of Hundley's passes are Shaquelle Evans and Devin Fuller. Even though Fuller (36 receptions, 426 yards, four TDs) leads the team in catches, he was limited against Arizona as he had just nine yards on two receptions. Evans (34 receptions, 503 yards, seven TDs) is the bigger scoring threat as he leads the team in touchdown catches after his 97-yard, two-score performance against Arizona.
UCLA is a comparable team on the defensive side of the ball. The Bruins are allowing similar totals in yards (389.3 ypg) and points (22.9 ppg) on the campaign. Eric Kendricks (78 tackles) came back strong against Arizona after missing a game to record 13 total tackles. Meanwhile, Ishmael Adams (46 tackles, four INTs) is a playmaker on the outside and All-American Anthony Barr (13.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks) is a real force in the pass rush.
These teams are largely mirror images of each other. Each squad has a very effective offense led by two of the more consistent quarterbacks in the country. Scoring points won't be the issue for either team, but if Kendricks and Barr are able to create negative plays and pressure Price enough, the Bruins will have the edge, especially at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCLA 38, Washington 31