UCLA's freshman linebacker turned tailback isn't expecting to run wild when Washington visits the Rose Bowl on Friday night. He's just hoping to contribute to a win over his hometown team on the 13th-ranked Bruins' path back to the Pac-12 title game.
Jack supplemented his growing defensive presence with a jaw-dropping, 120-yard rushing performance at Arizona last week. Even his teammates were surprised.
"I guess they didn't really know I played running back in high school," Jack said.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian isn't surprised by anything Jack does: He recruited Jack heavily out of high school in Bellevue, Wash., to play either running back or linebacker.
"He's definitely talented enough to do that," Sarkisian said.
The Bruins (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12) likely will need all the offense they can get to take on the Huskies (6-3, 3-3), who have scored 100 points in their last two games. Even if Jack doesn't take a handoff against Washington - and UCLA coach Jim Mora isn't tipping his hand - nobody will be surprised if a high-scoring contest breaks out between two teams still hoping for big finishes.
UCLA controls its destiny for a third straight Pac-12 South title and a trip to the conference championship game, but Washington still has designs on an upper-tier bowl game in the fifth season under Sarkisian, who has a strong friendship with Mora.
The Huskies arguably have even more elite offensive playmakers than the vaunted Bruins, with quarterback Keith Price using tailback Bishop Sankey and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to score 37 points per game this season.
UCLA's offensive talent has been dogged by several injuries - hence Jack's surprising turn in the backfield last week. The Bruins hope their offense stays on track at the Rose Bowl, where they've scored 199 points in four games this season.
Here are five reasons to watch the Bruins go after their 12th win in the schools' last 15 meetings:
HUNDLEY HEATING UP: Jack isn't the only UCLA player gathering steam down the stretch. Quarterback Brett Hundley has bounced back nicely from two poor games at Stanford and Oregon, passing for 500 yards and four touchdowns in the Bruins' last two games. Hundley, already third in school history in total offense, is eager to put a big finish on his second season - and maybe his last, if the redshirt sophomore heads to the NFL.
WARY OF ASJ: UCLA's defense knows all about Sankey and Price, but the Bruins are equally worried about Seferian-Jenkins, the most prolific tight end in Washington history. Linebacker Anthony Barr reached into the Bruins' recent past to find a comparable challenge: hulking ex-UCLA tight end Joseph Fauria, currently catching passes for the Detroit Lions. "He reminds me of Joe Fauria, except (Seferian-Jenkins) runs better routes," Barr said.
TACKLE SHUTOUT: Speaking of Barr, the elite NFL prospect didn't make a tackle last week against Arizona. Mora thinks he knows why the shutout, and he doesn't expect it to happen against the Huskies. "He was tackled about six times," Mora said of Barr. "He probably would have had six sacks. It was a shame what they got away with."
SOCAL WORK: The Huskies are loaded with Southern California talent - all the way up to their head coach, a Torrance native who recruits the Southland extensively. Eight of the Huskies' defensive starters and at least six offensive starters are from California, most from the L.A. area. Sarkisian isn't the only local boy eager to put on a good show back home in the schools' first meeting since 2010. "I think any time you get to go home and play in front of your friends and family, that's a unique experience for them," Sarkisian said. "And to play in the Rose Bowl in January is the ultimate goal, so to get a taste of the venue in the regular season at some point in their career I think is really motivating, especially if you go out and you play well."
TURNOVER TIDE: Washington finally saw some defensive results of its emphasis on turnovers last week against Colorado, scoring 21 points off Buffaloes turnovers. UCLA is usually careful with the ball, but the Huskies will keep trying to take it away. "Our defensive coaches have just been hammering it home," Sarkisian said. "The dam was getting ready to break, and it was just a matter of time. It finally broke, and hopefully for the next three games, we just have an onslaught on the football."