Huskies Insider Blog

Picking the Washington-UCLA game

No. 18 UCLA (7-2, 4-2 in Pac-12) at Washington (6-3, 2-3)

4 p.m. PT Saturday, Husky Stadium

The line: UCLA by 4.5

TV: FOX Sports 1

Radio: 1000 AM/97.7 FM

In the stats: Here is Washington's team report, and UCLA's.

Here the Huskies are again, late in the season with six wins against inferior opponents, and none against those ranked in the top 25.

If that sounds familiar, it might be because this is exactly where Washington was last season when it visited the Bruins -- 6-3 overall, coming off a win over Colorado, and circling the game in Pasadena as a potential "take the next step" affair.

Except it wasn't. Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Bishop Sankey each fumbled in the first quarter, and UCLA turned each of those turnovers into touchdowns en route to a 41-31 victory.

This year's game has a similar feel. A few Huskies players were asked this week about only beating the teams they're "supposed" to beat, and losing so far to the three teams -- Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State -- that were favored to win.

"These are the types of games you live for, and it’s why you come to the University of Washington," linebacker John Timu said. "But with an atmosphere like this and a team we’re facing that’s pretty good, you've got to win those games, and it all starts with practice.”

So in that regard, UCLA presents another opportunity for the Huskies to prove they're making progress. They'll have to do it without Marcus Peters, obviously, the standout cornerback who was dismissed from the program on Wednesday night following a series of clashes with the UW coaching staff. That means Naijiel Hale (true freshman), Sidney Jones (true freshman), Budda Baker (true freshman) and Kevin King (sophomore) will comprise the Huskies' starting defensive backfield. Containing UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley -- big dude, big arm, effective scrambler -- could be a tough ask, especially if Shaq Thompson plays more offense than he does defense (and that's likely).

As tough as Hundley is to defend, the Bruins run the ball really well, too. Paul Perkins leads that attack with 1,074 yards and an average of 6.3 yards per carry, which is a big reason why linebacker Myles Jack has only carried the ball 22 times this year. Washington's veteran defensive front will have to be up to the challenge on a level it couldn't reach against, say, Oregon.

One stat that favors the Huskies -- UCLA ranks 119th nationally in sacks allowed with 29. The Huskies obviously rush the passer better than most everyone in the country, so this could be another game for national sacks leader Hau'oli Kikaha to wreak a little havoc in the pocket.

The Bruins' defense has been middling for much of this season, though they effectively shut down Arizona's high-powered offense in a 17-7 victory last week. Still, if UW's offensive line shows up and Thompson runs as tough as he did last week at Colorado --Deontae CooperLavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington should also be available to help out -- he could have another big day and help open up the passing game for Cyler Miles, who needs to take a step forward for UW to have a chance.

If the Huskies' offense were a little more consistent -- particularly the passing game -- this pick would go in their favor. But as it is, I don't think we've seen enough from that side of the ball to believe they can beat the Bruins.

The pick: UCLA 28, Washington 21.

Christian Caple can be reached at christian.caple@thenewstribune.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple

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