UCLA vs Stanford What to watch for: The Cardinal tries to get back on track for a BCS bowl

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Stanford the No. 9 UCLA Bruins in a game that's absolutely essential to the how the Pac-12 conference will play out in 2013

What to watch for on UCLA's side of things:

1. Brett Hundley at the bat. Hundley's a guy who starting to light the world on fire (especially on NFL draft boards this year) but he only played so-so a year ago in his two games against Stanford. This week, it looks like it's all gonna be on his shoulders offensively, because his top running back, Jordon James, isn't likely to play. Hundley can get rattled as a passer when teams blitz him, but his quick feet might end up being the difference maker. He has 61(!) carries already this season, and racked up 83 yards and a touchdown against the Card in last year's Pac-12 title game. So Hundley's probably gonna get his chance to carry the rock on Saturday, and if he does that successfully, UCLA will be in a great spot to win this game.

2. Offensive line issues. The Bruins just lost left tackle Torain White for the season with a broken ankle and they start two freshmen on the right side of the line. It wasn't a huge issue a week ago because they played Cal's 125th-ranked defense, but odds are it will be a bigger problem this week. Stanford's defense hasn't quite lived up to its hype thus far, but their ability to challenge the Bruins' o-line will be absolutely essential to deciding the outcome.

3. You can only hope to contain Anthony Barr. Barr's "will-he-be-a-top-5-pick" status has obscured the fact that UCLA has a dope group of young linebackers. (Some people are even starting to say insane shit about Barr like "Don't count him out of the Heisman Race.") Barr's 26 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks speak for themselves, but he's fourth on his own team in tackles - behind three other linebackers. Eric Kendricks is the team leader (47 tackles), and Myles Jack and Jordan Zumwalt come into this game with 32 and 28 tackles, respectively. If UCLA's linebacking corps can pick up a few sacks like Utah did,  or if they can hem in the Cardinal running game, it might be another long day of offensive struggles for Stanford.

What to watch for on Stanford's side of things:

1. Getting offensive. We've already spilled thousands of words on this exact topic on this site the last few weeks, but the Stanford offense needs to get up and go if the Cardinal wants to achieve some sustained success through the end of this season. The offense seems capable of putting together a few flawless drives every game, but has been beset by bad play-calling and bad execution over the last few weeks. The single biggest x-factor in this game from my perspective is if the Stanford offense can lift itself from the doldrums of the last two weeks and find a groove.

2. Special teams. Ty Montgomery has earned "Freakin" status this season. As in: every time you say his name, you should now say "Ty Freakin' Montgomery." This dude is averaging 196.5 yards per game, with 99.3 of them coming on special teams. (He's on pace for 2,300+ total yards this season.) If he's able to flip the field a few times, it'll greatly benefit the Stanford offense. Meanwhile, kicker Jordan Williamson may not be able to go this Saturday, which might have a big ripple effect for the Cardinal. David Shaw trusts Williamson from 50+ yards out, but I doubt he'll trust an injured Wiliamson or backup Conrad Ukropina from that far, so it may mean the Cardinal will have to end up going for a critical 4th down in that range between the 30- and 40-yard lines.

3. Defensive line depth. Perhaps the most peculiar thing to happen this Stanford football season thus far is David Shaw electing to move tight end Luke Kaumatule to defense to help the banged-up d-line. It's a move that smacks of desperation, but it just might work. Kaumatule was recruited as a defensive end, and his sheer size might help the Cardinal stop teams from gashing them on the ground. The Cardinal have allowed 100+ yard rushers in back to back weeks, and preventing Hundley from getting running room is going to be imperative for Stanford. If the defensive line can't be a factor this week and can't take advantage of the young UCLA line, Hundley might register a massive game.

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