Tim Kish will find himself in an unfamiliar head coaching position Thursday night when he leads the host Arizona Wildcats against the UCLA Bruins.
Most sports books monitored by SportsOptions have installed Arizona as a four-point home favorite, with the total set at 62.
Kish has had many job titles in his long career, but never once was he a head coach at this level. Sure, it is only on an interim basis, but Kish has a chance to turn the season around and remain in the job next year as well. Righting the ship will not be easy however, as Arizona has dropped five consecutive games. That skid led to the firing of Mike Stoops, who finished just 41-50 at Arizona. The most recent loss was a 37-27 setback to Oregon State on the road.
The Bruins have gone back and forth between wins and losses all season. The team is coming off a win, as UCLA defeated Washington State, 28-25 last time out. It was the third win on the year for the Bruins, who are now 2-1 in conference play.
The Bruins might own a 19-14-2 edge over Arizona in the all-time series but the Wildcats have won the last four meetings and have not lost at home to the Bruins since 2003.
If the Bruins are going to have any success offensively, it is likely going to come from the rushing attack, which is averaging 194.5 yards per game. Tailback Johnathan Franklin is leading the way for UCLA with 509 yards, while Derrick Coleman is contributing 330 yards, to go along with a team-best six touchdowns.
The rushing attack will need to be even better this Thursday, because it would appear quarterback Richard Brehaut will be out for a few weeks with a leg injury. That means Kevin Prince will likely get the nod once again, but in just 23 passing attempts the signal caller has thrown two touchdowns and four interceptions.
Prince did perform adequately in the team’s recent win over Washington State though, and in a relief effort the quarterback threw for 173 yards and two touchdowns and the second score proved to be the game winner. However, the offense fed off of the success of the ground game, which rumbled for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Both scores came from Coleman, while Franklin ate up the yardage, finishing with 110 yards.
The offense has been decent, but unable to mask UCLA’s deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball. UCLA is surrendered 181.5 rushing yards per matchup, while struggles against the pass as well. Opponents are averaging 231.8 ypg through the air.
The reason opponents have enjoyed so much success against this unit is because the Bruins have been unable to create much chaos defensively. Through six games the Bruins have only eight takeaways and a mere five sacks. a lack of pressure has allowed opposing quarterbacks more time in the pocket to pick apart the Bruins down the field.
Two of those five sacks came against Washington State this past weekend. The defense also grabbed an interception, but still allowed 235 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
It should be interesting to see how the Wildcats handle the coaching change.
Offensively, Arizona has relied heavily on the arm of Nick Foles, who has thrown for 2,255 yards and 15 touchdowns. The quarterback has completed 71.5 percent of his throws and has only been picked off four times, rather impressive considering the rushing attack is contributing just 71.8 yards per game.
Foles has enjoyed all this success without the help of his favorite target Juron Criner. Criner has been dealing with a few injuries this year and his availability for Thursday’s game is in question.
With the absence of Criner guys last Dan Buckner have stepped up. Buckner is currently leading the team with 33 receptions, while Gino Crump is right behind him with 30 catches.
Buckner had a big game in the loss to Oregon State, as the wideout finished with 144 yards and one score on eight catches. As for Foles, he was intercepted twice in the loss, but did manage to finish with 378 yards. Unfortunately the rushing attack did not prove to be reliable, as the Wildcats finished with just 53 yards on 19 totes.
For this offense to work and be productive Foles has to throw the ball 35 to 40 times a game, so expect a lot of gunslinging on Thursday.
The offense might have a lopsided attack, but at least it is functional, which is more than can be said about the defense, Opponents are averaging nearly 500.0 yards per game against Arizona and have scored a hefty 27 touchdowns thus far.
The Wildcats have struggled in every area, as the opposition comes into this game averaging 196.0 ypg rushing and 291.7 ypg passing.
Pressuring the quarterback has been a big issue for this defense, which comes into this matchup with only three sacks. The defense is also unable to make many big plays. The team has just five interceptions on the year, three of which are accredited to Shaquille Richardson.
The Bruins have not won in Tucson since 2003, but that is likely to change this Thursday. Sure, UCLA will be playing without its starting quarterback, but the defense for Arizona is so bad at the present moment that it shouldn’t matter. Expect a heavy dose of the UCLA ground and pound, en route to a Bruins’ victory.