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Early Analysis: Stanford vs. UCLA


UCLA and Stanford square off in a Pac 12 Championship Game rematch this weekend. Photo: USA Today Sports

No. 9 UCLA at No. 13 Stanford
Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, ABC
Line: Stanford -7

The beat goes on in the Pac-12 conference as a key interdivisional contest takes place Saturday afternoon on the Farm in Palo Alto. Stanford comes home to face an undefeated UCLA squad.

Stanford at this point needs the game more in order to keep pace in the Pac-12 North Division race, as a second loss would more or less knock the Cardinal out of contention for the division title. Stanford is coming off of a surprising loss to Utah in Salt Lake City 27-21, as the Cardinal were driving late in the game but came up short on fourth down in the red zone.

The Bruins slowly smothered the Cal Golden Bears on Saturday night, 37-10. Quarterback Brett Hundley threw for a career high 410 yards, averaging 10 yards per attempt and also tossed three scores. It was a good solid effort, although it was far from a perfect effort.

For UCLA to win: Run the ball. The Bruins only rushed for 78 yards total last week, although the lack of running back Jordon James may have had something to do with that. And while Hundley did play well last week, asking him and this offense to be one dimensional for a second week in a row could spell disaster during this hellish back-to-back and seriously derail UCLA’s high expectations.

For Stanford to win: Get the passing game on track. Stanford’s passing game has shifted focus this season from being more short and intermediate and tight end focused to more vertical and wide receiver focused. But the passing game has been middling at best in its focus on stretching the field. The Cardinal need to find their offense again, and a return to the mid-range passing game might be the elixir to help overcome the Bruins.

Key player, UCLA: Paul Perkins, running back. With Jordon James still doubtful with an ankle injury, the freshman will have to step up and shoulder more of a load. Last week’s performance of 14 carries for 36 yards is not enough to provide the balance needed to give Hundley the time to attack the Stanford defense.

Key Player, Stanford: Kevin Hogan, quarterback. Hogan lost his first game as a starter last week. As discussed earlier, the passing game has gone in a different direction this season, with more emphasis on down field throws to the wide receivers and less focus on the tight ends. Hogan’s two games this month have been subpar, and a third straight subpar performance could lead to a second straight loss for the Cardinal.

Key Stat: 12. Stanford has won 12 straight games at home, which is the third longest streak in the country behind Michigan (18) and South Carolina (14).

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Early Analysis: Stanford vs. UCLA

 

No. 8 Stanford at No. 17 UCLA
Saturday, 6:30 PM, FOX
Line: Stanford -2

UCLA, in the first season under Jim L. Mora, have defended their Pac-12 South title. Unlike last season's team that was coached by the now fired Rick Neuheisel, this team has earned their way into the game and have a chance to host the game this season. UCLA beat archrival USC last week to win the division.

Stanford has assumed control of the Pac-12 North after physically dominating Oregon last week in Eugene. The Cardinal can win their division and host the title game if they beat UCLA. If Stanford loses but Oregon State wins, then they will return to the Rose Bowl for a second straight week on November 30 for the rematch with a BCS berth on the line.

For Stanford to win: Maintain balance. On offense last week, Stanford turned the ball over three times. If they hadn't coughed it up, they might have beaten Oregon by much more than three points and won the game in regulation. 211 yards passing and 200 yards rushing was almost perfect distriubtion for the offense. It meant that Stanford moved the ball not with ease, but well enough to play keepaway from Oregon. Stanford had a time of possession of 37:05 versus 22:55 for Oregon. Stay balanced and keep quarterback Kevin Hogan out of difficult situations and the chance to win increases.

For UCLA to win: Create havoc. A blocked punt and three turnovers aided the Bruins in their quest to control the football monopoly in Los Angeles. Stanford is something of a mirror image of the Bruins, as far as being physical teams that want to run the ball with a senior feature back and utilizing their freshman quarterback in controlled circumstances. The Bruins will need to create more havoc and turnovers to try and get the ball and control of the game away from the Cardinal.

Key Player, Stanford: Stepfan Taylor, running back. Taylor didn't score last week against Oregon. He didn't have a run longer than 18 yards. But the senior running back did yeoman's work last week in Eugene, toting the rock 33 times for 161 yards last week, grinding out tough yards and helping to keep the offense on schedule and keeping the ball away from the explosive Oregon offense. UCLA does give up about 147 yards per game on the ground, so Taylor has a chance to have a big game.

Key Player, UCLA: Johnathan Franklin, running back. While UCLA's defense has been towards the middle of the pack in rush defense, the Stanford defense holding Oregon down last week shouldn't have been that big of a surprise. Stanford is second in the country in rush defense, allowing only 71 yards per game on the ground. Franklin, a senior, is going to have to come up large and be leaned on heavily to provide a strong first punch for the Bruins. He carried the ball 29 times for 171 yards and two scores in the beating of USC. He might need to replicate that line (or come close) to help the Bruins win home field for the Pac-12 title game.

Key Stat: 9. If Jim Mora can win one of the next three games that the Bruins will play, he will break the record for victories for a first year coach at UCLA. He is currently tied for that record with Terry Donahue, who went 9-2-1 in his first season in 1976.

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