It’s been a week of hype and turmoil in the build-up to UW-UCLA … Jim Mora, Shaq vs. Jack, Marcus Peters out of whack.
Let’s talk matchups:
Washington (6-3, 2-3 Pac-12) has been good against the run this season, allowing just 3.7 yards per rushing attempt, third-best in the Pac-12. Four of the seven rushing touchdowns UW has allowed came in the loss at Oregon.
No. 18 UCLA (7-2, 4-2) comes to town for Saturday’s 4 p.m. kickoff at Husky Stadium (Fox Sports 1) leading the Pac-12 with 251 yards rushing per game, averaging an impressive 5.3 yards per carry in six conference games.
Paul Perkins has already rushed for 1,000 yards, and Brett Hundley is the most aggressive running quarterback the Huskies will see this season.
The Huskies, we know, are at their best when their veteran front seven is at its best — when Hau’oli Kikaha is pressuing the quarterback and Danny Shelton is clogging up the middle and John Timu is taking everyone down. Those things always makes life easier for a young secondary.
We know now, too, that Shaq Thompson is most valuable to the Huskies as the full-time featured running back. I’d still like to see him get 20 snaps or so at linebacker, but I don’t see the Huskies having much of a chance Saturday if Thompson doesn’t get established early and often out of the backfield.
It’s never that simple, of course, but it’s not difficult to understand that the Huskies have struggled some when forced to throw more than they would like. They want balance, but to get there you have to establish the run. Thompson has allowed them to do that the past two weeks — even behind a banged-up offensive line — but UCLA figures to be ready for that, too.
Remember, too, that the Bruins are coming off their best defensive effort of the season, having shut out Arizona’s offense for the final 57 minutes last week.
The Huskies haven’t put a complete game together this season. The Marcus Peters saga makes one less confident that this is the week it all comes together. Who knows — maybe that sort of thing will galvanize the team?
I’m not convinced of that.
This is a decent matchup for UW. I think they should be a competitive game, and it wouldn’t shock me if the Huskies pulled it out. However, the lack of depth for UW in the secondary and on the offensive line is troubling.
Prediction: UCLA 24, UW 20.
Around the Pac-12:
Notre Dame at Arizona State: This could end up being the best game in the conference this weekend. It feels like Taylor Kelly is hitting his stride again, and I like ASU at home. The pick: Arizona State 31, Notre Dame 27.
Washington State at Oregon State: I’m curious to see more of Luke Falk, but I don’t like his chances much on the road, even against the struggling Beavers. The pick: Oregon State 38, Washington State 28.
Colorado at Arizona: Wildcats with a big bounce-back win. Big. The pick: Arizona 49, Colorado 21.
Oregon at Utah: There’s some thought here that Utah, with its stout defense, could replicate what Stanford had done to Oregon the past two seasons. But it’s really hard to pick against Marcus Mariota right now. The pick: Oregon 34, Utah 21.