Jim Mora (left) needs to find a way to stop Todd Graham's (right) blitzing scheme.Since the Pac-12 was created in 2011, the winner of the UCLA vs Arizona State game has represented the Pac-12 South in the conference title game in every year.
Last season, UCLA allowed a season-high nine sacks and was outrushed by 72 yards in its loss to Arizona State. The nine sacks were the most the Bruins have allowed in any game in the last 10 seasons and are tied for the most for any team in the last two years.
With uncertainty at the quarterback position for both teams, the game may again come down to line-of-scrimmage control, particularly when UCLA has the ball.
In the past couple of seasons, the Sun Devils have boasted one of the best pass rushes in the nation, while the Bruins’ offensive line has struggled to protect its quarterback and run the football.
Arizona State pass rush
Since Todd Graham took over as head coach in 2012, Arizona State ranks second in the FBS behind Stanford with 99 sacks. Much of that success has come when sending added pressure.
Arizona State has blitzed on 43 percent of its opponents’ dropbacks since the start of the 2012 season, the second-highest rate among Power Five schools (Syracuse). The Sun Devils have the most sacks (54) and the highest sack percentage (12 percent) when bringing added pressure among Power Five teams during that span.
Arizona State Pass Defense - This Season
Last season Arizona State blitzed on 16 of Brett Hundley's 40 dropbacks (40 percent) and recorded seven of its nine sacks when sending added pressure.
The Sun Devils have continued to be more successful when sending added pressure this season; they are allowing almost five yards less per dropback and a completion percentage below 50 percent when blitzing compared with when they don’t blitz.
UCLA Offensive Line
Since taking over as the starting quarterback in 2012, Hundley has been sacked 97 times, 24 more than any other FBS quarterback. Hundley has been sacked 14 times in the two matchups against Arizona State, including nine times in his last matchup.
Moreover, Hundley has been knocked down 148 times since the beginning of last season. No other active Power Five quarterback has been knocked down in this period more than 124 times.
The Bruins’ offensive line has struggled to manage opponents’ blitzes this season, ranking second-to-last in the Pac-12 in yards per play (5.4) and allowing the most sacks (seven) when opponents send five or more pass rushers.
The Bruins have also struggled to create holes for ball carriers. They have averaged 1.6 yards before contact per rush this season, second worst in the Pac-12 to pass-heavy Washington State and almost a yard less than last season.
Although UCLA is favored by more than a field goal on the road, if the Bruins cannot protect their quarterback or find space to run it could be a long night in Tempe.