No. 16 UCLA vs. No. 8 Stanford
Friday, 8:00 PM EST, FOX
Line: Stanford -8.5
Here’s to hoping that Friday evening’s second act in the play that is Stanford vs. UCLA is much better than the first act was last Saturday night. Stanford mauled the Bruins 35-17 in the Rose Bowl. UCLA wants to return the favor up on Leland Stanford’s Farm and get to play in the Rose Bowl on their home field January 1.
To do that, they will need to shore up some of the issues that they had last week. If you’re Stanford, you want to continue doing what you’ve been doing the last three weeks as you’ve knocked off the top two challengers in your division and then made a statement to your cross divisional opponent on their turf.
It might be a wet track Friday evening, as there is rain in the forecast for large parts of Northern California. That might make a difference with some other teams, but these are two running teams, and I think it might suit them just fine.
For UCLA to win: Protect the quarterback. One of the basic things about football is controlling the line of scrimmage. Stanford’s defense is very good against the run, and if you already know that the running game is going to be tough sledding, then you have to be able to keep your quarterback clean in obvious passing situations. Brett Hundley struggled last week, completing just over 50 percent of his passes. Oh, yeah, he also got sacked seven times. When your quarterback is on his back that much, it is kind of hard to win.
For Stanford to win: Take some chances. This doesn’t mean that Stanford should throw the ball 50 times in this game. But given what the Cardinal showed in the last game with UCLA six days ago, it might be safe to expect UCLA to focus more on stopping the Cardinal ground game and see how comfortable coach David Shaw is with letting his freshman quarterback toss the rock around the yard. In the four games that Kevin Hogan has played since taking over for Josh Nunes, he has only thrown it more than 29 times once, and that was in the overtime thriller against Oregon. Stanford might have to use more straight dropback passes, especially on first downs, to try and loosen up what should be a tighter UCLA run defense.
Key Player, UCLA: Brett Hundley, quarterback. He has played well most of the year, and very well for a freshman, but Hundley is going to have to produce in this rematch. Yes, he was on his back a lot in the last game as was discussed earlier. However, he will have to go through his reads quicker and get rid of the ball before the pass rush gets there for his team to have a chance at winning this game. Hundley had his second worst game of the year last week against Stanford. If he performs at that level again, the Bruins have no shot of winning.
Key Player, Stanford: Kevin Hogan, quarterback. Freshmen quarterbacks are on display in this game on both sides, although the discovery of Kevin Hogan was a late season storyline. Ever since he took over for a struggling Josh Nunes, Hogan has been a revelation and the Cardinal offense has taken off. Hogan, however, will have to be able to rise to a possible challenge as presented by facing the same defense in less than a week; can he adapt to the wrinkles that are sure to be coming his way, and can he keep the offense on schedule?
Key Stat: 1999/2000. It has been well over a decade since both of these teams found themselves in the promised land of the Pac-12 conference. While UCLA plays every game at the Rose Bowl, they have not been in the January 1 game since 1999 when Cade McNown was quarterback of the Bruins and Bob Toledo was the head coach. The Bruins lost that game 38-31 to Wisconsin. The Badgers were led by Ron Dayne’s four rushing touchdowns.
Stanford last made a postseason trip to Pasadena in 2000 for the Rose Bowl. They also lost the game, although their loss was lower scoring, falling 17-9 to…a Ron Dayne-led Wisconsin Badgers squad. Dayne, who had won the Heisman Trophy that season, was named Rose Bowl MVP for the second straight season.