Despite a bye week, Stanford seems to be in a worse position, in terms of injuries, than they were before. KJ Costello is out, Davis Mills is questionable, and the Cardinal only have six healthy linemen. Will the injury bug lead to a Stanford loss?
The biggest question of the game is Mills. Some would argue that he’s better than Costello, and I think it’s safe to say he’s better than Jack West (at least today). Stanford’s quarterback production would probably severely drop off if Mills can’t suit up. Mills led the Cardinal to victory with his efficient passing versus Washington, and when he got hurt, David Shaw resorted to running the ball.
No matter who suits up behind center for the Cardinal, Shaw will likely rely on the run game anyway. UCLA’s rush defense is not great and ranks eighth in the PAC-12 with 162.7 yards per game. After seeing Cameron Scarlett steamroll through the Husky defense and knowing he’s well rested following the bye week, Shaw will trust his run game against the shaky UCLA defense.
UCLA has question marks of their own. Their starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is questionable, and he is a much better quarterback than backup Austin Burton. Thompson-Robinson was electric in their game versus Washington State, throwing for 507 yards and leading the team to 67 points. Meanwhile, Burton struggled in the team’s loss versus Oregon State.
Ultimately, whoever starts behind center for UCLA might run into trouble (literally). The line for UCLA has allowed 15 sacks this season, and Stanford routinely made life difficult for Jacob Eason in their last game versus Washington. The Cardinal front seven should be able to replicate that success.
I predict that if Mills plays the Cardinal win easily, despite their injuries on the offensive line. The UCLA defense is far worse than any other defense the Cardinal have played thus far, and Mills should take advantage of it. If West plays, this game will come down to David Shaw vs Chip Kelly, and I think Shaw has Kelly figured out.