Arizona football preview: Tate and the Wildcats face Rosen and the Bruins

Oct 13, 2017, 7:00 AM
Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate celebrates after running for a touchdown against Colorado in the fi...
Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate celebrates after running for a touchdown against Colorado in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A record-setting performance on the ground from sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate helped the Arizona Wildcats (3-2) score an upset of the Colorado Buffaloes (3-3) last Saturday in Boulder.

Now, the Wildcats’ secondary will face arguably its biggest test of the season — stopping UCLA junior quarterback Josh Rosen. If the defense can limit Rosen, Arizona could walk out of Arizona Stadium in Tucson with a win over the Bruins and a 2-1 record in Pac-12 play.

With help from Utah and Arizona State, the winner of this game could conceivably enter Week 8 with the second best record in the Pac-12 South.

Essential Info

What: UCLA (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) at Arizona (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12)

When: 6 p.m.

TV: Pac-12 Network

Storylines to follow

Can UCLA stop Arizona’s powerful rushing attack?

The Wildcats will enter Saturday’s contest against the Bruins ranked fourth in the nation in rushing (319.4 yards per game). Arizona has rushed for more 300 yards in four of its last six games dating back to the 2016 season.

The Bruins has given up an average of 284.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks 128th nationally and last in the Pac-12.

Can Arizona’s secondary stop Rosen?

In UCLA, the Wildcats will face the nation’s top passing offense (435.8 yards per game) and the top total offense in the Pac-12 (550.8 yards per game).

Arizona has given up an average of 256.6 passing yards in its first five games. Only Cal (264 yards per game through six games), Arizona State (293.6 yards per game through five) and Oregon State (294.7 yards per game through six) have surrendered more yards through the air in the Pac-12.

Who will start at quarterback for Arizona? 

Tate’s performance against Colorado has created another quarterback controversy in Tucson.

Junior Brandon Dawkins started the game against the Buffaloes but left in the first quarter after taking a late hit on Colorado’s sideline. Last season, Dawkins struggled against UCLA’s defense, completing eight of 17 pass attempts for 73 yards and one touchdown. But, Dawkins has started every game for the Wildcats this season.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez’s decision will likely depend on Dawkins’ health and how much stock Arizona’s sixth-year coach puts into one performance.

Will penalties continue to haunt the Bruins? 

UCLA has committed 49 penalties in five games this season for an average of 93.7 penalty yards per game.

Bruins head coach Jim Mora expressed his frustration last week and is searching for answers.

On Saturday, Mora and company will face an Arizona team that ranks first in the Pac-12 in opponent penalty yards per game (83.2).

Can the Wildcats stop the Bruins on third down? 

The Bruins have converted 48.6 percent of their third down attempts this season, the second highest percentage in the Pac-12 behind Washington (51.4).

Meanwhile, Arizona has allowed opponents to convert 42.9 percent of the time on third down, the fifth worst percentage in the Pac-12.

Key players

Khalil Tate: Not only did Tate rush for 327 yards, his 217.20 pass efficiency rating against Colorado was the highest for the Wildcats since Willie Tuitama in 2007. Tate was 12-of-13 for 154 yards and a touchdown.

Shun Brown: The Arizona junior ranks second in the country behind Washington senior Dante Pettis in yards per punt return (23.5). Brown could change the field position battle with one big pay.

Darren Andrews: The UCLA redshirt senior wide reciever currently ranks second in the nation in touchdown receptions (7), leads the conference in receptions per game (8.0) and is third in the Pac-12 in receiving yards per game (110.6).

Jaleel Wadood: The senior defensive back leads UCLA in tackles this season, which includes a season-high 11 tackles in Week 4 at Stanford. The Bruins’ ability to limit the Wildcats’ run game could depend on Wadood’s performance.

Stats to know

5: The Bruins have won the last five meetings against the Wildcats and lead the all-time series, 24-15-2.

11-10: Arizona owns an 11-10 overall record against UCLA at Arizona Stadium. The Wildcats did drop the last two home contests against the Bruins in 2013 and 2015, but have won four of the last meetings played in Tucson.

21: The Wildcats’ defense has forced 21 three-and-outs this season through five games. In 12 games last season, Arizona had a total of 30 three-and-outs.

83.3: Arizona has converted 83.3 percent of its fourth down tries this season, which is the sixth best conversion rate in the nation.

18-13: The Bruins are 18-13 under Mora in true road games, but are 0-2 this season. UCLA lost at Memphis in Week 3 and at Stanford in Week 4.

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Arizona football preview: Tate and the Wildcats face Rosen and the Bruins