UCLA has only two wins so far in Chip Kelly's second season, yet the Bruins remain in contention in the Pac-12.
The Bruins (2-5, 2-2) have four games remaining against teams in a wide-open Pac-12 South in which each has at least one loss. While the schedule gives UCLA a chance to control its own destiny, it also turns every week into a virtual must-have for a spot in the conference title game.
No. 24 Arizona State (5-2, 2-2) is in pretty much the same situation as it prepares to meet UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Saturday afternoon, although a 21-3 loss in the rain at South Division co-leader No. 12 Utah last week hurts the Sun Devils in a tiebreaker scenario.
"I told the team, 'We're going to find out a lot about ourselves right now,'" said Arizona State coach Herm Edwards, who apologized to Utah coach Kyle Whittingham for the Sun Devils' 12 penalties. "We have the rest of the season left, and we've got to find a way to regroup."
Arizona State will look to perk up an offense that had only 136 yards against Utah and ranks No. 105 in the FBS in scoring (22.1 points a game) and No. 98 in total offense (346.6 yards per game) behind freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels and an offensive line that starts two freshmen.
"A lot of our youth on both sides of the ball showed up," Edwards said of the Utah game. "We were waiting for that to happen, and we were hoping it wasn't going to happen, but I'm not naive to not know that it's going to happen. It just does."
Sun Devils running back Eno Benjamin has 633 yards rushing overall and four 100-yard games this season, one in each of the past three games, as Edwards' principle offense weapon. Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk ranks 11th in the FBS with 658 receiving yards and has scored five touchdowns.
UCLA enters after its most complete game of the season, a 34-16 victory at Stanford that was a reversal of form: The Bruins had 455 yards in total offense while limiting the Cardinal to 198 yards and recording seven sacks. It was the first time since 2009 that UCLA held an opponent to fewer than 200 yards in total offense.
"We are balanced right now," Kelly said. "I love this group. They want to get better."
The Bruins rank No. 114 in the FBS in total defense (459.7 yards per game) and No. 115 in points allowed (34.6 per game).
UCLA has scored 149 points in its past four games behind sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who passed for 507 yards and five touchdowns as the Bruins rallied from a 32-point deficit to beat Washington State. After missing a game with an ankle injury, he had 258 yards total offense and three touchdowns at Stanford.
"He makes really good decisions," Kelly said. "I've seen that since the Washington State game."
Arizona State has won three of the past four games in the series, with the last three decided by seven or fewer points.
--Field Level Media