No. 12 UCLA will try not to look ahead to next week’s rivalry showdown with No. 8, USC, as the Bruins host Arizona this week in a game they’re expected to win easily.
UCLA is 8-1, 5-1 in the Pac-12 and tied with Utah for third place in the league, a half game behind USC and a game out of first place. So there’s plenty to keep the Bruins’ attention this week.
So far, UCLA has navigated the trap portion of its schedule without a setback. The Bruins finished a stretch of three straight games against ranked teams with back-to-back contests against Arizona State and Stanford, a combined 3-10 in the Pac-12, heading into the Arizona game. The Bruins won the first two games of the soft stretch by a combined 39 points.
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Arizona Wildcats vs. UCLA Bruins
Saturday, November 12, 2022 – 10:30 PM EST at Rose Bowl Stadium
It’s been a long year for Arizona, and the schedule is doing the Wildcats no favors down the stretch. The trip to UCLA caps a stretch of four teams ranked in the top 14 over the last five games. The stretch started on Oct. 8 with a home game against then No. 12 Oregon.
The Wildcats then had a trip to Washington, unranked at the time but now in the top 25, a bye, a home game against No. 10 USC and a trip to No. 14 Utah last week.
“I don’t know if this is normal or not, to play four teams in the top 10 in the last five weeks, not sure if anyone else in the country has done that,” said coach Jedd Fisch.
The Wildcats lost all four games, although they came within 10 of Washington and eight of USC.
Arizona made some changes at offensive line against Utah. Sam Langi, who has been part of the rotation at left guard all season, was benched and freshman Wendell Moe played his first college game as a starter, giving Arizona a very young front five.
“Now we’ve got two freshmen lined up with a sophomore in the middle,” Fisch said.
The Wildcats’ top receiver, Jacob Cowing, could miss the game after suffering a leg injury. “We’ll know more in the next few days,” Fisch said at the start of the week. “Don’t know yet exactly if he’ll be good to go or not. We’ll see if he’s going to be limited or not.”
There’s also a question mark with safety Jaxen Turner, who suffered an injury that limited his time in last week’s game. “He was bandaged up pretty good, or braced up pretty good on his right hand,” Fisch said. “Just kind of dealing with some... everybody’s dealing with something."
"He’s had a few other injuries, mix and match bruises, but I didn’t find him to be hesitant or tentative. We just tried to rotate him and Isaiah Taylor a little bit more than usual to try to keep them fresh.”
Chip Kelly’s Bruins lead the Pac-12 in rushing, and Arizona is in the bottom 10 in the nation in run defense. The Wildcats have given up 300 yards on the ground in a game three times this season.
UCLA rushed for 402 yards last week, and that was in a week where they didn’t have starting running back Zach Charbonnet, who missed the game with an undisclosed injury.
He was also limited in practice at the start of the week, so his status for this week’s game is up in the air. Backup Keegan Jones also went down to injury last weekend and missed practice time this week.
That means the run game could be keyed by Kazmeir Allen, who shifted from receiver when Charbonnet got hurt and turned in 98 rushing yards last week, and quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who rushed for a career-high 120 yards.
Even without Charbonnet and Jones, the Bruins should be able to get enough production on the ground to control the Wildcats.
Arizona struggled with turnovers last week, and the banged-up lineup seems to be showing the impact of the tough stretch of games that’s coming to an end. Following the NCAAF odds, look for the Bruins to cruise.
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