Conference play is finally here and we'll get the opportunity to see how the Arizona Wildcats look in a match-up with a very good UCLA Bruins team. Let's take a look at a few numbers underlying this match-up:
UCLA has only given up one sack this entire season. That's pretty impressive, especially when you consider that UCLA played Virginia (a Power 5 team) and BYU (a very good almost-Power 5 team). Despite this formidable opposition, UCLA's offensive line has been able to keep Josh Rosen upright, which has given him the opportunity to shine. True, he faltered a little bit against BYU, but I worry that if UCLA is able to protect Rosen, he'll have enough time to cut apart the Arizona defense...
...and that seems very possible. On the year, Arizona has only one sack against an FBS opponent - the almost safety against Nevada - despite playing a relatively inexperienced UTSA and an outclassed Nevada. Importantly, that was without Scooby Wright, who maybe - just maybe - will be back for the game against UCLA. And the sack drought also occurred with a linebacking corps that has been devastated by injuries. Still, Reggie Gilbert and the rest of the defensive line just haven't been able to get to the quarterback so far this season. There were some glimmers of hope against NAU, and maybe that's something the line can build off of, but the Wildcats' defense needs to do a better job getting after the quarterback.
At the beginning of the season, Ishmael Adams, #1 for the UCLA defense, was arrested for stealing a cell phone from an Uber driver. Ishmael Adams was a first team All-Pac 12 DB last season. Because of his arrest, Ishmael Adams was suspended. This week, UCLA lost cornerback Fabien Moreau for the season. Ishmael Adams was then reinstated and will play against Arizona this weekend. Honestly, this is probably a coincidence - the district attorney declined to prosecute it as a felony, and even if it's charged as a misdemeanor, a three game suspension seems reasonable enough - but it's the sort of coincidence that I will imply heavily isn't actually a coincidence whenever I'm talking smack to my friends who are UCLA fans.
In a week where things haven't gone well for the UCLA defense (particularly losing Myles Jack for the year), reinstating Ishmael Adams gives UCLA a high-quality defender and helps mitigate the losses they've sustained this week.
As of this moment, UCLA is a three-point favorite over Arizona. That number has changed - UCLA was originally a four-point favorite, and the Myles Jack injury caused some movement.
There is a lot of uncertainty coming into this game. Regardless of how good Josh Rosen has been this year, he will still be a true freshman quarterback playing his first conference game on the road against a very hyped up Arizona crowd. Likewise, UCLA's defense will have to cope with the losses of Myles Jack and Fabien Moreau. And that's just on the UCLA side - on the Arizona side, who knows if Scooby will be able to play and/or if he'll be limited. Can we even predict how good Arizona will look against UCLA when the competition to this point has been UTSA, Nevada, and NAU?
Anything can happen on Saturday, which is an exciting and terrifying prospect. The Wildcats have an opportunity to pull off a huge win on a national stage in front of a packed home crowd. Let's hope they seize it.