Kickoff: Friday, 8 p.m. ET (Fox) at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto
Forecast: Chance of rain
Spread: Stanford by 8.5
Watchability: The rematch, and this time, it matters. Well, it mattered for Stanford last week -- a loss would've put Oregon in the Pac-12 title game -- but now UCLA is playing for keeps. That is, to keep itself in the Rose Bowl.
Shining stars: Stanford -- TE Zach Ertz. The first-team all-conference selection knows exactly where to find the crease, much like Coby Fleener did for the Cardinal the last few years. Having good, veteran tight ends -- Levine Toilolo isn't too shabby himself -- lets Stanford play the waiting game in the passing game. That ability to control the game has been the biggest key to the program's continued success. UCLA -- RB Johnathan Franklin. Franklin had his second-lowest yardage output of the season against the Cardinal, and the Bruins can't afford another 65-yard showing. That 65 yards is to be scoffed at says a lot about Franklin's huge senior year. He's up over 1,500 yards, and he's been so critical to the UCLA attack that another dud could seal the deal for Stanford.
Who could steal the show: Stanford -- QB Kevin Hogan. The redshirt sophomore quarterback was not phenomenal against the Bruins last week, but he was plenty good enough. Andrew Luck, he is not, but he isn't Josh Nunes, either. And clearly for the Stanford offense, which continues to stay committed to the David Shaw system, Hogan works best now. UCLA -- TE Joseph Fauria. The hulking tight end has proven to be more than just a red-zone threat for redshirt freshman QB Brett Hundley. While Fauria has 11 touchdowns this season and 17 in his three-year career at UCLA after transferring from Notre Dame, he has become a reliable target. He had four catches for 66 yards and a score against Stanford last week, and the Bruins need similar production on Friday.
Magic number for Stanford: 49. The Cardinal ran 49 times against UCLA in the first matchup, and that bruising style paid off in the third quarter. Punishing the Bruins early once more will keep them achy and make breaking tackles easier.
Magic number for UCLA: 154. Entering the matchup last weekend, the Bruins were averaging more than 488 yards per game. Against Stanford, they managed just 334, a difference of more than 150 yards.
3 Keys to a Stanford win:
- Dominate the line of scrimmage: Despite making major strides up front -- three UCLA offensive linemen earned at least honorable mention all-conference honors -- the Bruins are simply not in the same class with the Cardinal defense, at least physically. Hundley was not at his sharpest and often absorbed unnecessary sacks in their first matchup, Stanford still got him down seven times. That kind of physicality affects an entire team.
- Play efficient in the passing game: With the way Hogan has played in recent weeks, pundits have questioned how he didn't get the starting gig out of fall camp. But he's here now, and he's delivering for the Cardinal. He used the play-action pass to near-perfection against the Bruins, waiting for his targets to weave into the open field and often-times hitting them with accuracy. He finished 15 of 22 passing for 160 yards -- not huge numbers, but enough -- and most importantly, he hit six different receivers and kept UCLA guessing.
- Go to RB Stepfan Taylor, and often: Taylor has hit the 100-yard mark seven times this year, so he's not an unknown quantity. But even though UCLA knew what was coming, it could not stop it. Taylor averaged a season-high 7.1 yards per carry against the Bruins and added 27 yards on three receptions. He has been a difference-maker in the tempo game all year, and if he churns extra yards and gets needed first-downs, the Cardinal will keep the Bruins at bay.
3 keys to a UCLA win:
- Hit the deep pass: Hundley has been a revelation for the Bruins, but even he was not immune to getting flustered by the Stanford pass rush. If UCLA is going to find the success it had in the first quarter against the Cardinal -- 147 yards, including a 71-yard bomb to wideout Shaq Evans -- Hundley needs to be on his game, particularly deep.
- Defend the middle of the field: Stanford's pro-style offense is especially adept against teams that lose track of the tight ends in space. So what happened the first time these teams met? Hogan found his guys in space. The drag pattern was a boon for Ertz against the overmatched UCLA linebacker corps, which features size and speed but not the combination to handle Ertz.
- Open up the playbook: Coach Jim Mora rightfully defended himself against chatter that the Bruins tanked it against Stanford in the first matchup to set up a rematch, rather than try to win and possibly face Oregon in the title game for a second straight year. It even got a bit heated in the post-game press conference. But after Stanford went up big, it's a fair assumption that UCLA didn't exactly bust out the Statue of Liberty to try to catch the Cardinal off-guard. Better to save the trickery, but only if the Bruins actually use some on Saturday.