Opening Number: 1.23, as in yards per carry by Stanford's opponents this season. The nation's top-ranked rushing defense will be seriously tested for the first time by an offense that averages over 200 yards per game on the ground.
Key Players to Watch:
- Coby Fleener, Stanford TE: Fleener caught the first of his four regular season touchdowns in Stanford's 35-0 win over UCLA last year and has found the end zone three times already in 2011 despite missing almost all of the Cardinal's last game with concussion-like symptoms. The 6-foot-6 senior has been cleared to play and will create matchup problems along with the other two members of The TriumviratE, Zach Ertz (9 catches, 3 TDs) and Levine Toilolo (4 catches, 1 TD).
- Jarek Lancaster, Stanford LB: The redshirt sophomore is expected to get the start in place of Shayne Skov, who underwent season-ending knee surgery this week. Expect UCLA to target Lancaster and fellow inside linebacker Max Bergen.
- Richard Brehaut, UCLA QB: Brehaut played well in last week's win over Oregon State, but he only threw the ball 11 times. He'll likely need to do more than hand off to Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman if UCLA is to keep up with Stanford's high-powered offense. Is he up to the challenge?
- Andrew Abbott, UCLA CB: With Sheldon Price likely out with a sprained knee, Abbott, the Bruins' nickel back, is expected to get the start opposite Aaron Hester. Andrew Luck hasn't looked to his wide receivers as much as his tight ends, but this could be the game that the Cardinal's WRs join the party.
- Slow Start: Coming off a bye, there's always some concern that a team will come out flat, but Stanford's players insist that won't happen. "We shouldn't miss a beat," Luck said. Even before the bye week, the Cardinal took a while to find its rhythm, allowing Duke and Arizona to hang around for the first 30 minutes before pulling away after halftime. Stanford can get away with that disturbing trend against lesser foes, but it's something head coach David Shaw would like to see corrected sooner rather than later.
- J-O-H-N-athan Franklin and S-T-E-P-fan Taylor: Chances are good that at least one of these backs will have his first name misspelled in a postgame recap. Chances are better that at least one of them will have a big game. Taylor, who is coming off a 153-yard effort against Arizona and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, gets to face a porous rushing defense. Franklin is averaging 5.7 yards per carry for the Bruins.
- Pistol: When it's working, UCLA's pistol (or revolver) offense can confuse defenses. When it's not, the result is ugly.
- Skov-Less: Everyone's eager to see how the Stanford defense fares in its first game without Shayne Skov. UCLA isn't the most explosive offense in the Pac-12, but they'll provide a good test.
Willys expects Stanford to give Andrew Luck a chance to air it out a little more and predicts a blowout win. | The Daily Axe
Kevin Gemmell predicts a 42-7 Stanford win. | Stanford Football Blog
High school recruit Barry Sanders Jr. will be at the game as part of his official visit. | SF Chronicle
Five things to watch on Saturday. | ESPN LA
Closing Number: 100, Stanford's success percentage in the red zone. The Cardinal has scored on all 16 trips inside its opponent's 20, but Shaw would like to see his team finish off more drives with touchdowns.
Prediction: Stanford 48, UCLA 13. Brehaut told reporters earlier this week that nobody believes in UCLA and nobody gives the Bruins a shot. That includes me. With the Cardinal well rested and playing at home in front of a packed student section for the first time this year, I think Stanford finds its offensive rhythm early en route to another easy win.