The Stanford Cardinal finally made it back home, but now the task of turning it around gets a bit challenging, because they have to play the UCLA Bruins. Both of these teams need this win, with Stanford coming off their loss to the San Diego State and UCLA needing redemption after their loss to the Memphis Tigers.
The Bruins are staring down the barrel of extending their losing streak to the Cardinal and they have to play on the road after a tight loss. While these teams already have enough motivation to beat one another because of history, Stanford dropping three straight is enough to have everyone hitting the panic button on the team. On the other side of the matchup, UCLA head coach Jim Mora is in a tight spot. Mora was already speculated to be on the hot seat headed into the season, and dropping two consecutive games including yet another loss to Stanford would not help his chances.
Both teams have gaping holes and impressive spotlights. This is the beauty and the beast of this game.
So far, the Cardinal has given up 406 yards per game and 23 points per game. The defense has been struggling the last two weeks, giving up 206.3 yards per game and really not getting pressure on opponents’ quarterbacks like past seasons. Even though they have nine sacks, Stanford’s run defense is a problem.
For UCLA, the defense has not been special either, however, the running game has been really bad. The Bruins average 121 yards per game and have had one player, Bolu Olorunfunmi, rush for over 50 yards in a game this season. Not only do the Bruins have no back they can lean on for diversity in the offense, they do not even have a few backs to roll between. This puts everything squarely on quarterback Josh Rosen’s shoulders and makes the offense one-dimensional.
Bryce Love and the Stanford running game is very much still chugging along, producing big numbers. Love has 524 yards on the year, while the Stanford running game puts up 210.3 rushing yards per game. The questions of quarterback or play-calling miscues or defensive failings may swirl around the team, but the running game will always come through.
Meanwhile on UCLA’s side, Josh Rosen has looked exceptional, leading college football with 1,282 passing yards and 13 touchdowns to only two interceptions. Despite his team’s shortcomings, he has performed exceptionally thus far. Everybody saw the stunning 34-point comeback over Texas A&M to win 45-44, which UCLA followed with a 56-23 rout of Hawaii, and even through the 48-45 shootout thriller in Memphis, this team has clearly been held together by one common thread. Rosen has averaged a 65 percent completion rate and 427.7 passing yards in three games. Win or lose, he is worth the price of admission.
Both these teams need a win badly, which may leave it up to the team’s coaching staff to see who can make the most adjustments for a victory. The Cardinal need to flood the field with defensive backs, forcing UCLA to win the game on the ground. They need to get the ball out of Rosen’s hands and because of their inconsistent pressure that means putting so many bodies in the secondary the Bruins cannot help but run the ball.
On offense, no matter how much everyone else will want head coach David Shaw let quarterback Keller Chryst sling the ball on the UCLA secondary, my guess is he grinds out this game with the run. The play here on both sides is neutralizing the best part of the Bruins roster, namely Rosen. If the Cardinal can put together three or four drives that take eight minutes and 11 to 14 plays and end in touchdowns, they probably win this game.
In short: these teams are total opposites of each other. Rosen has completed 91 passes, Chryst has attempted 72. Olorunfunmi leads the UCLA backfield with 140 yards to Love’s 524. This entire game can be melted down to which team forces the other out of the comfort zone.
Game Score: I really want to go Stanford. The money is on Stanford, the spread is on Stanford at -7, but after watching what USC quarterback Sam Darnold did to the Cardinal defense, it is hard to see Rosen not having his way. Rosen is a better quarterback and I predict he will not stop attacking this defense. I’ll wager he puts up over 350 yards in a 31-27 UCLA win, as Love goes for 190 yards on the ground and Chryst has another two-interception day.