Bruins, Wildcats can’t afford to look ahead
AP Sports Writer
TEMPE, Ariz.(AP)–UCLA has, in a little over a week, the game that always gets circled first on the schedule: against Southern Cal.
Arizona State is also facing a rivalry game, on the road against No. 20 Arizona.
In between, they face other in a game neither can play lookahead in, one between two losing teams that may feel like a playoff game.
That’s because, as shaky as this season has been for both teams, they still have bowl hopes, which will certainly end for one with a loss Friday in the desert.
“It’s kind of like a playoff game–it will be spirited,”UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said.”There’s a level of intensity going around the league to try to stay alive in this thing.”
An up-and-down season has put them in this position.
UCLA(4-6, 2-5 Pac-10)was riding high after beating ranked teams Houston and Texas–in Austin, no less–and has since lost four its past five games.
The Bruins last played on Nov. 18, a 24-7 loss to Washington. In that game, a week after beating Oregon State, UCLA had just 51 yards of offense in the final 3?quarters and couldn’t stop the Huskies’ground game even though they knew quarterback Jake Locker was injured and limited.
Now, the Bruins need to shake off their latest disappointing loss or any hope of a bowl is gone.
“It’s a painful lesson, but it’s a great lesson to everybody that you’ve got to(be)totally ready to go,”Neuheisel said.
Arizona State’s challenge isn’t so clear cut.
The first part of it is: the Sun Devils(4-6, 2-5)have to win their final two games. No other way around it.
After that, it’ll be up to the NCAA and how the bowl-eligible teams fall into place.
Because two of Arizona State’s wins this season were against FCS programs, it needs to win seven games–already out of reach–or get to six, have too-few teams become bowl eligible and get a waiver from the NCAA.
The Sun Devils had a solid game against Stanford the last time out on Nov. 13, losing 17-13 to the nation’s seventh-ranked team, and were off last weekend.
“It’s a football game that’s big for both football teams,”Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said.”Having a week off, I would like to think we would come off the bye a little better than we did last time. Hopefully we are rested up.”
UCLA’s hopes might hinge on the health of quarterback Richard Brehaut.
The starter since Kevin Prince’s season-ending knee surgery last month, Brehaut was knocked out with a concussion midway through the third quarter of the loss to Washington. The backups went just 1 for 11 with an interception when Brehaut went out, so it was good news earlier this week when he was cleared to practice.
“There’s been zero symptoms over the last three days, so there’s every reason to believe he’ll be ready to go,”Neuheisel said.
Arizona State is looking for some consistent play from its quarterback.
Steven Threet, who won a spirited three-way battle coming out of training camp, has been alternately superb and average. The strong-arm junior has thrown for over 2,500 yards and 18 touchdowns, but also has 16 interceptions, tied for most among FBS quarterbacks.
Brock Osweiler, who’s eyeing a chance at playing basketball in the spring, has taken reps with the first two over the past two weeks, but Erickson has said Threet is the starter.
Whoever gets the call, the stakes are clear.
“We both know that for us to have any chance to have an opportunity to go to a bowl game we can’t lose any games,”Erickson said.