(AP) — The road to the Pac-12 South division title goes through Arizona State.
While the 20th-ranked Sun Devils control their own destiny, UCLA can tighten the race considerably with a win Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.
Arizona State (6-2, 4-1), which ranks tied for 22nd in the FBS with 35.9 points per game, again displayed its offensive prowess last Saturday, totaling a season-high 522 yards in a 48-14 rout of Colorado.
Brock Osweiler completed 18 of 28 passes for 307 yards along with two touchdowns, while Cameron Marshall ran for 114 yards with a career best-tying three scores.
“We didn’t want to come out lethargic like we have the past few times (against underdogs),” said receiver Gerell Robinson, who had four catches for 89 yards. “This is a different team with a different mindset. We know that we control our own destiny and it’s the first time we’re in this position, so we’re not going to slip.”
The Sun Devils sit atop the division, but UCLA (4-4, 3-2) remains very much in the mix despite its wildly inconsistent season. Despite winning three of four in this series, Arizona State knows it could have its hands full.
“If (the Bruins) can run the football, they can create a lot of problems for you,” coach Dennis Erickson said. “They eat the clock up … They’ve been talented all year. They’re sitting there in a situation, like us, where they have a chance to win our division. They have to beat us to do it. On the road, it’s a real important game for all of us.”
UCLA, which hasn’t recorded back-to-back wins since a three-game run Sept. 18-Oct. 2, 2010, is coming off a 31-14 victory over California last Saturday.
“Now we need to find a way to be consistent,” coach Rick Neuheisel said. “That’s our marching order going forward. We look forward to getting that accomplished this week and playing an inspired game against a very talented Arizona State team.”
The Bruins followed their first three wins with losses by an average of 30.3 points.
“I just want to attribute (our inconsistency) to a lack of complete focus,” Neuheisel said. “You start thinking about other things. And I take complete responsibility. I was the one that brought up the race, and blah blah blah. At the end of the day, this is about Arizona State and UCLA squaring off.”
Oft-injured Kevin Prince threw for just 92 yards but shattered a previous career high with 163 yards on the ground against the Golden Bears.
“Kevin did a great job, and he got better as the game wore on,” Neuheisel said. “Remember, he’s a 230-pound guy. You call a (running) back 230 pounds, you say, `Wow, that guy is a load to bring down.’ Kevin is the same.”
Derrick Coleman also came up big, rushing for 80 yards and three touchdowns. His nine scores are the most by a Bruin since Maurice Jones-Drew recorded 20 in 2005.
In addition to seeing its offense pick up the pace after a 48-12 loss at Arizona on Oct. 20, UCLA surrendered its lowest scoring output of the season thanks in part to Tevin McDonald’s school record-tying three interceptions.
The Bruins’ defense didn’t fare nearly as well during last season’s 55-34 loss at Arizona State. Osweiler recorded career highs of 380 passing yards and five touchdowns – four through the air – while Marshall ran for a career-high 147 yards, including a 71-yard TD.
UCLA was without Randall Carroll, Taylor Embree, Shaquelle Evans and Ricky Marvray against the Golden Bears after the receivers were suspended for taking part in a brawl versus Arizona. All four players are eligible to return Saturday, but defensive tackle Cassius March will serve the second of his two-game suspension.
The Bruins have won five of the last six meetings against the Sun Devils at home.