On Saturday, Stanford will play its first road game of the 2016 season. That game will be against UCLA and will be the 88th time these two teams have met. This has been a series of streaks dating back to beginning when Stanford won the first 5 meetings by a combined score of 216-13 including an 82-0 victory in 1925. UCLA would then go on a 30-year tirade from 1938-68 winning 19 of 27 games with two ties. UCLA has 45 victories in the series and at one point held a 45-31-3 edge over the Cardinal and yet it is Stanford who holds the longest winning streak in this series and they are going to take that streak into Pasadena on Saturday as they have beaten UCLA 8 straight times which means if they win Saturday, they would not have lost to UCLA during the Obama Presidency…. 4 MORE YEARS!!! Stanford will come into this game ranked 6/7 and while deserving, the real season will start on Saturday. There are going to be a few keys to the game for Stanford and while a tough game, it’s more than a winnable game.
A road environment can be very hostile and Ryan Burns will be making his very first road start so that could be an issue. Burns has been very good at home so far and even his interception was at a point in the game where the worst-case scenario would be a turnover going for the jugular. Burns needs to keep his composure at the line of scrimmage and take command of this team. It’s also not a bad thing when you look behind you and see the best player in the country waiting to help you out.
Stanford will continue to be a team that may not throw the ball much but when they do, it can be deadly. Burns has only thrown the ball 32 times in two games but he has completed 22 of those passes with a few drops. And more importantly, his 3rd down run against USC might have been the sign that he has what it takes when you need him to be THE GUY. As far as former Stanford quarterbacks go, Burns will have an opportunity to actually start his road career in Pasadena; Plunkett and Elway lost their first start at UCLA while Luck and Hogan won their first game in Pasadena. The Rose Bowl should be the perfect place for Burns to get his feet wet outside of Stanford and not just because he will need to be able to handle a very loud Washington crowd the following week but because Pasadena is Stanford’s home away from home.
Aside from Burns handling a road environment, Stanford needs to continue owning both halves during this 8-game streak. Stanford has scored 277 points which averages out to just under 35 points per game. UCLA on the other hand has scored 131 (16 ppg) and 35 of those were last year when Stanford won 56-35. Stanford has started strong in every game scoring at least 7 in the first quarter in 7 of 8 games and the one game they only managed a field goal, UCLA was held scoreless. In the 32 quarters of football, Stanford has been shut out for 4 of those. UCLA on the other hand has put up a goose egg in 13 of those quarters. In 480 minutes of football, UCLA had led for 28 minutes….While the final score is really what matters in the end, if Stanford can put up just enough points and take a lead early on, odds are the trend will continue and Stanford will win its 9th consecutive game against UCLA.
The last key is my DUH key and that is Christian McCaffrey. I can start my rant about how he will be screwed out of another Heisman but I’ll save that for another day. McCaffrey is bigger and faster than last season when he rushed for 243 yards and had 4 touchdowns against UCLA. He also had 122 yards on kick returns and was a trip up away from a touchdown there as well. McCaffrey will be able to take some of the pressure off of Burns and will help the offense get some mismatches on the outside. Kicking to McCaffrey is just as dangerous so UCLA can kick the ball out of bounds, pooch kick it where Stanford would ultimately start on their own 35-40 each kickoff/punt or try Bryce Love who is actually faster than CMAC. As Vince Vaughn said in Wedding Crashers, “It’s all deadly.”
Stanford may not have the best quarterback on the field but they have the best coach, the better coaching staff, savvy vets and young stars who have both played in bigger games, and once again as Brent Musburger would say CHRISTIAN MCCCCAFFFFFFREY!!! Stanford will win this game and if UCLA doesn’t come to play, Stanford will put up another 50 burger on them and get their second win this calendar year in Pasadena.
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