ASU Football vs UCLA Tonight: Is a Bounce-back Victory and Win #5 in the Cards?
James Romo
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October 8, 2016 12:55 PM

As tough as it was to watch last week’s loss to USC, Sun Devil Nation can take solace in the fact that Todd Graham’s Sun Devils have made it a habit to secure big victories after getting blown out the prior week.

In LA, the Trojans stacked the box with 7 and 8 man fronts all game to counter what has been the anchor of ASU’s offense. As a result, the running back tandem of Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage managed an unremarkable total of just 39 rushing yards. 

Screenshot at Sep 02 21-50-23

Screenshot at Sep 02 21-50-23

Tonight, UCLA’s game plan is to force RS Freshman QB Brady White, who is making his first career start, into obvious passing downs. The hard-to-swallow reality is that the Bruins might have a more formidable front 7 than the Trojans.

Should UCLA limit ASU’s ground game early, they will lean on their experienced and athletic secondary led by cornerback Fabian Moreau and safety Randal Goforth, to succeed in man-to-man coverage against the Devils. This will present more opportunities for the baby blue to blitz ASU’s young QB.

Screenshot at Sep 02 21-50-23

I’ve seen a tendency for UCLA LB’s Kenny Young and Jayon Brown to over pursue plays, so forcing them from sideline to sideline would bode well for the Devils.

Using Ballage and Richard in slip screens, bubble screens, wheel routes, and other creative RPO (Run/Pass Options) would keep the UCLA linebacking corp out of ASU’s backfield while forcing them into coverage. Getting the ball out quickly to Maroon & Gold playmakers in space is key.  

Screenshot at Sep 02 21-50-23

Since 2012, Coach Todd Graham's first year in Tempe, ASU and UCLA have split the series 2-2. The away squad has prevailed in each game.

Since 2012, Coach Todd Graham’s first year in Tempe, ASU and UCLA have split the series 2-2. The away squad has prevailed in each game.

Screenshot at Sep 02 21-50-23

Today, ASU’s offensive line needs to uphold their pass protection blocks on 3-step pass drops by White. This will create tempo for the Devils, keep White upright, and utilize the pass-catching ability of ASU’s RB’s. Ballage is also better suited running to the edges, so stretch runs and fly sweeps would be useful in spreading the Bruin defensive front. 

Defensively for ASU, poor open field tackling remains a constant issue. In every game this season, the opponent has broken long touchdown pass plays that were only designed to pick up short yardage. UCLA receivers and running backs have as much big play potential as any team the Devils have faced. 

Screenshot at Sep 02 21-50-23

Screenshot at Sep 02 21-50-23

ASU will be facing UCLA sophomore QB Josh Rosen who is the best QB in the conference and a sure-fire first-round NFL pick. Rosen is a magician at reading blitzes and getting the ball to his hot reads to avoid negative plays. Athletic receivers have been a nightmare for ASU defensive backs, so I anticipate them to blitz less and drop into disguised coverage shells. 

Tonight's Game Prediction via OddsShark

Tonight’s Game Prediction via OddsShark

The biggest key for the Devils tonight is where they choose to line up Laiu Moeakiola defensively. He’s played both the SPUR linebacker and Bandit (boundry) safety at a high level. The challenge is identifying the most suitable and productive replacement for the position that he’s NOT playing.

That player will most likely be the talented and physical Marcus Ball. Unfortunately, from our eye, Ball still presents risks in his play recognition and ability to cover receivers/running backs coming out of the backfield.

ASU’s defense will give Brady White more opportunities tonight if Marcus Ball and the players around him can more quickly diagnose multiple receiver sets and routes. 

Given the talent and speed on the UCLA roster, the Devils will have to play one of their best games so far and win the turnover battle by at least +2 in order to beat the Bruins.

Earning their fifth victory of the season tonight would be massive for the Sun Devils and the Pac-12 South race. However, should they drop to UCLA and enter the second half of the season with a 4-2 record, ASU would still be ahead of their pre-season expectations.

Screenshot at Sep 02 21-50-23

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