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).