With an opportunity to remain on top of the Pac-12 South Division and to continue the climb up the rankings, Utah heads to the historic Rose Bowl Stadium to take on conference foe UCLA Bruins (Saturday, 2 p.m. MT, Fox).
UCLA is looking to stop its losing streak and get back to .500 on the year. Here are six numbers to know about the two Pac-12 teams before their weekend matchup.
25 is the Utes' magic number. Over the past two seasons, Utah is 9-1 when scoring 25 or more points in a game. The Utes' only loss was last year at Arizona when Utah managed 30 points but gave up 37 in a double-overtime defeat. Over that same timespan, UCLA is 2-9 when allowing opponents to score at least 25.
126 is UCLA’s team ranking in rushing yards per game. There are 128 teams in the FBS, and only Georgia State and Texas State have fewer yards a game than the Bruins. UCLA ran the ball 25 times last week for only 43 yards. Utah’s defense is 27th in the FBS for rushing yards allowed per game; on paper, this looks like a favorable matchup for the Utes.
Speaking of the Utes' rush defense, Utah is allowing 130.1 yards per game on the season. Over the past two seasons, Utah is 12-3 when holding opponents under 130 rush yards for the game. In six of those 15 games, Utah has allowed under 100 total rushing yards. In six of the seven games UCLA has played this season, it has rushed for under 130 total yards. In addition, in four of those six games, it has rushed for under 100. Look for the Utes to dominate in the trenches and force UCLA to rely on its passing game.
Utah will not only have to rely on its rush defense to be successful, but also its rush offense against the Bruins. UCLA boasts the No. 1-ranked defense when it comes to passes defended, with an impressive 38. The Bruins have also forced eight interceptions on the year from opposing quarterbacks. The aptly named Adarius Pickett, who on the season leads the team with three interceptions, supports the impressive Bruins secondary.
That is how many yards rushing Joe Williams earned last week after coming out of a brief retirement. Williams said he came back for the team, and he was a big spark the Utes offense desperately needed. After stepping away two weeks into his senior season, Williams returns at a time when the Utes' running back core is desperately searching for healthy athletes.
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Perhaps the most intriguing number for the weekend is 101, which is how many points the Utes have scored in the second and third quarters on the year. In contrast, Utah has given up only 52 points through seven games. UCLA, on the other hand, has had a terrible third-quarter streak to its year. Opponents have outscored it 34-65 throughout the season. The Utes will need to build a lead going into the fourth quarter as UCLA has outscored opponents 84-43 during the final 15 minutes of regulation. That adds up to 46 percent of its offensive scoring output on the season.
Cameron Wood is a graduate of Weber State University and a teacher and coach at St. Joseph Catholic High School in Ogden, Utah. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on twitter @camwood03.