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November 28, 2008
It is do, or die, for UCLA
The stakes are high, and the pending result, will be simple. Whoever loses tonight's contest between UCLA (4-6, 3-4 Pac 10) and Arizona State (4-6, 3-4 Pac 10), will have to put their dreams of a bowl game away until next year. It is do or die. It doesn't get much simpler than that and that is what both teams are playing for, a chance for that sixth win and for the opportunity to go bowling.
Regardless of the outcome the Arizona State Sun Devils had an underachieving season as many thought Dennis Erickson's crew would be the toughest challenge for USC and the dominance of the Pac 10 conference, but that was not to be.
The Sun Devils appeared to have what most successful Pac 10 have and that was a talented, experienced quarterback in senior Rudy Carpenter, but the offense has staggered and hasn't played up to potential.
Arizona State is seventh in the Pac 10 in total offense, falling way short of projections for a team that was expected to be near the top of conference in most offensive categories.
The Sun Devils rank in eighth in the conference in first downs, eighth in third down conversions and given up 28 sacks.
Carpenter is winging the ball pretty good when you consider that he's averaging 241.9 passing yards a game, good for third best in the conference.
Carpenter's number one target this season has been senior Mike Jones who has 52 receptions on the season for 668 yards and four touchdowns.
Another reliable target for Carpenter is a player the Bruins remember is junior, Chris McGaha, who had a very good game and was one of the difference makers in Arizona State's victory against UCLA a year ago.
Defensively the Sun Devils land right in the middle of the Pac 10, ranked fifth in the conference in total defense. Arizona State is fifth in conference against the rush, seventh against the pass and eighth in the conference in sacks with 17.
For the Bruins to win this game the defense will have to set the tone and slow down the Sun Devil's offense. Though ASU hasn't had the type of year on the offensive side of the ball that they would have liked, they still have the weapons and could put together the kind of game that was anticipated they would play all season long.
The Bruins needs to come out of the box and punch ASU squarely in the nose and let the Sun Devils know they are in for a brawl, not just on the opening few drives, but all game long.
If the Bruins can live inside Carpenter's head, they will have a very good chance of becoming victorious. Limiting Carpenter's effectiveness will be key for the Bruins and that one thing will go a long way in giving the Bruins the opportunity to keep the dream of a post season game alive.
Offensively the Bruins need to be able to run the ball at least as well as they did in their last game against Washington.
With a running game, the Bruins will be able take onus of the game off the much maligned junior quarterback, Kevin Craft.
The Bruin quarterback needs to have an efficient game and not turn the ball over.
All season long, the Bruins have been hoping to see the quarterback in Craft that led the Bruins to thrilling victories over Tennessee and Stanford. That quarterback who engineered those two drives is the quarterback the Bruins need behind center today.
The keys for a Bruin victory offensively are Craft taking care of the football, meaning no turnovers, and the offense generating a running game.
Defensively, the Bruins need to play physical and get into the head of Carpenter. It also will help if the defense creates turnovers and gives the offense a chance to score.