Pac-12 South Notebook: Can UCLA’s Josh Rosen outduel WSU’s Luke Falk?

UCLA's Josh Rosen has a big test vs. Washington State.
Troy Wayrynen/Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen recorded his fourth game with 300 or more yards, totaling 333 yards and two touchdowns against Oregon State this past Saturday.

Rosen also recorded his third game averaging more than ten yards per attempt, displaying remarkably consistent improvement. He has 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions — though he has not thrown a pick in his last 131 passing attempts. Brett Hundley (who Rosen replaced at quarterback) never recorded more than 103 consecutive passes without an interception during three years as UCLA’s quarterback.

UCLA needs to win out to have a chance to represent the Pac-12 South in the conference championship. In order to beat their next opponent, the Bruins need to win the passing matchup. How will Rosen look when he faces one of the most impressive passing attacks in college football?

“He’s implementing plays,” UCLA senior receiver Jordan Payton told the Los Angeles Daily News. “He’s coming up with different schemes for us. That’s definitely something he wasn’t doing before. He’s getting very, very comfortable.”

When UCLA played Cal’s star quarterback Jared Goff, Rosen had the better game. Rosen was 34-of-47 with 399 yards and 3 TDs while Goff was 32-of-53 with 295 yards and 3 TDs.  

Even as a true freshman, Rosen has helped UCLA become one of the most dominant air attacks in the country. The Bruins average 293.7 yards per game (fourth-best in Pac-12, 25th-best in FBS) with 7.66 yards per attempt.

Washington State, meanwhile, allows 211 passing yards per game (second-best in Pac-12, 52nd-best in FBS) through nine games. WSU’s pass defense has allowed 12 touchdowns, with 6.86 yards per passing attempt. Washington State has forced eight interceptions.

Fortunately for UCLA, they have the only pass defense in the conference that has performed better than WSU. The Bruins have allowed just 199.4 yards per game — 12 touchdowns, too, with 5.47 yards per attempt. UCLA held Oregon State to just 10 completions (on 24 attempts) for just 131 yards, adding three picks. 

But UCLA’s pass defense will have its biggest test of the season against Washington State. The Cougars have thrown 33 TDs and average a conference-best 417.3 yards per game (second-best in FBS) with 7.34 yards per passing attempt. Cougars quarterback Luke Falk leads the nation with 3,736 passing yards.

UCLA is without key defensive playmakers, including defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes, linebacker Myles Jack and defensive back Fabian Moreau.  

Washington State’s Falk has made 12 career starts; he’s already won four awards for Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week. 

"You don’t want him to sit back there and throw, but no one has stopped him on a consistent basis," UCLA head coach Jim Mora told the LA Times. "Like every quarterback, you have to do your best to put pressure on him and make him feel uncomfortable."

Can Arizona State right ship towards bowl eligibility vs. Washington?

Arizona State has now dropped three consecutive losses (Washington State, Oregon, Utah) and is in danger of missing bowl play for the first time since 2010.

With five losses and only four wins, ASU likely needs to win two of the remaining three games left on its schedule (Washington, Arizona, California) in order to become bowl eligible. AZ Central notes some teams with a 5-7 record may receive a bowl invitation to “fill all 40 bowl games” but ASU will need a strong final stretch to earn consideration.

“We’re going to fight every single game like it’s on the line,” said Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici, via SB Nation. “Because it is.”  

Arizona State begins that fight against Washington this weekend. Washington has dropped three of its last four games. The Huskies travel to Arizona State for this game — they are 1-2 on the road this season. ASU has defeated Washington in nine consecutive games.

Last time Washington came to Tempe, ASU head coach Todd Graham led the Sun Devils to a 53-24 victory. Washington has not defeated Arizona State since 2000.  

ASU began the season ranked 15th in AP Top 25 preseason polls, but lost to Texas A&M in the season opener. Momentum needs to change for Arizona State, especially after losing a must-win game vs. Washington State.

“We lost our fifth game. This is a disappointing season,” said Graham, via AZ Central. “Ultimately, I’m responsible for it.”

USC’s JuJu-Smith Shuster played well vs. Arizona, but is he healthy? 

USC star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster recorded eight catches for 138 yards (17.3 yards per catch) vs. Arizona. 

Before the game, interim coach Clay Helton called him “Superman” when asked about his availability.  His performance was highlighted by a one-handed grab and a 72-yard touchdown. He played just five days after receiving surgery on his right hand for a fractured bone. Smith-Schuster caught the first pass of the game.

“I knew he was going to play when he called me right after surgery,” said USC quarterback Cody Kessler, via OC Register. “Nobody was going to talk him out of it.”

He recorded 122 yards in the first half, but left the game early in the third quarter with a leg injury. Smith-Schuster returned later, catching two more passes.

Yahoo! Sports reports “all of his catches were made with his finger tips because his palm couldn’t grip the ball due to the plate and screws” from surgery.

“All I could think about was my team,” said Smith-Schuster, via Reign of Troy. “I wanted to play so bad.”    

Some reports explain Smith-Schuster was playing through “a lot of pain” vs. Arizona. He even ran to the locker room after suffering from apparent leg cramps. Inside Troy reports Smith-Schuster attended (but did not participate) in USC’s Monday practice.  

USC plays Colorado in Boulder on Friday at 6PM.

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