If we have learned anything from the past two years it’s safe to assume when UCLA and ASU play football the winner, regardless of when or where the game is played, has gone on to win the Pac-12 South title.
Although the 2014 version is being played in late September, the stakes are high and the story lines endless as one, possibly both teams, will be playing without their star quarterbacks in this week’s showcase Thursday night game .The 15th-ranked Sun Devils (3-0, 1-0) will go with redshirt junior Mike Bercovici who takes over for the injured Taylor Kelly while UCLA (3-0, 0-0) head coach Jim Mora is playing coy on the status of former Chandler High star Brett Hundley who injured his non-throwing shoulder in the Bruins win over Texas on September 13.
ASU head coach Todd Graham believes, whoever is under center, the game likely comes down to two keys.
“Number one is going to be ball security, owning the football,” Graham said during his weekly press conference Monday afternoon. “Turnover ratio is obviously huge in this game.”
Through three games the Devils have only turned it over once while forcing six but faces easily its’ stiffest test against a big-play Bruin defense who has feasted on other teams’ mistakes this season.
“I think explosive plays is second,” Graham explained. “Both years [under Graham] they’ve hit explosive plays because they got really dynamic receivers and explosive players at the skill positions and obviously they have an incredible quarterback who can extend plays.”
Judging from those comments it’s safe to assume the Devils are preparing to face Hundley who has been resting and recovering with the Bruins, like ASU, being on bye this past weekend. Graham also believes Mora and the Bruins will look to hit a trick play or two starting their conference schedule under the lights in Tempe against the team who bumped them out of the Pac-12 South Championship picture a year ago.
Hundley has been practicing with a brace on his left arm. Sophomore Jerry Neuheisel, who engineered a comeback win over Texas in Arlington, will start if Hundley is not cleared by UCLA’s doctors and training staff.
Kickoff is set for 7:00.