What to watch for when WSU takes on UCLA in the Rose Bowl on Saturday night.
WSU Cougars vs. No. 18 UCLA
WSU Players to watch
QB Luke Falk – 33 pass TD
WR Dom Williams – 14.4 yards per rec
WR Gabe Marks – 11 rec TD
FS Shalom Luani – 5 pass breakups
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LB Kache Palacio – 5 sacks
UCLA Players to watch
QB Josh Rosen – 18 pass TD
RB Paul Perkins – 10 rush TD
WR Jordan Payton – 15.0 yards per rec
WR Thomas Duarte – 8 rec TD
LB Jayon Brown – 59 total tackles
7:45 p.m., ESPN
Convert in the red zone
UCLA has the Pac-12’s second-best red zone defense, but WSU boasts the league’s second-best red zone offense. Which will prevail?
Get ahead, early
The Cougs’ offense has started slow in the last two games. It cannot afford to do this against UCLA. If Luke Falk and the receivers can get into a rhythm early and keep the pressure on UCLA’s offense to keep up, the need to score might force freshman quarterback Josh Rosen into uncharacteristic mistakes.
Cover well downfield
In Jordan Payton (83.4 rec yards per game) and Thomas Duarte (74.0 rec yards per game), Rosen has a pair of reliable, capable downfield threats who will challenge WSU’s secondary.
Freshman status or not, Rosen is a cerebral, astute passer who does well adjusting to defenses. It’s imperative that WSU’s defense does not give him time to sit back, process and throw. The Cougs have produced seven sacks in the last two weeks. They need to keep the pressure on to disrupt Rosen and make him uncomfortable.
Prediction: WSU 38, UCLA 35
Now, some links
— ESPN’s David Lombardi says WSU’s improved defense has played a huge part in the Cougars’ turnaround
— ESPN.com’s Pac-12 Blog staff is split as to which team will win on Saturday: WSU or UCLA?
— CougCenter.com’s Brian Anderson has this analysis piece on what to look for in the WSU vs. UCLA matchup.
— Jacob Thorpe has this story about how LB Kache Palacio’s dad used to pay him to sack opposing quarterbacks
— WR Thomas Duarte might be questionable for this weekend’s game because he’s missed most of UCLA’s practices with an illness this week, Jack Wang says.
— The LA Times’ Chris Foster has this feature on Duarte, who was a midseason addition to the Biletnikoff Watch List
— WSU’s 35 Californians are excited to play in their home state in the Rose Bowl
— WSU got a commitment from Carter High (Rialto, Calif.) defensive back Marcus Strong on Thursday night