Today's Keys

The second half of the Notre Dame football season kicks off this afternoon, as UCLA comes to town for the first time since 1964. The 10th-ranked Irish shouldn't be tested today or for the next five weeks before heading out to Los Angeles for the campaign finale against No. 3 USC.

Notre Dame (5-1) beat UCLA, 24-0, in the last meeting, and though they probably won't shut the Bruins (4-2) out this time, but if they follow these keys should easily cruise.

1. Stop the run: UCLA really likes to establish things on the ground, and they have two good runners in Chris Markey (589 yards, 1 TD) and Kahlil Bell (230 yards, 2 TDs). If Trevor Laws, Derek Landri and company can prevent solid gains, backup quarterback Pat Cowan will be forced to go through the air in beating the Irish. That's something head coach Karl Dorrell will want to avoid in Cowan's second-career start.

2. Fast start on both offense and defense: UCLA is already limping in after getting smacked around at Oregon last week. Any confidence they have coming into this game can be quickly ripped away if the Irish hit the throttle right away. The ND offense has scored 21 points in the first quarter over the past two games, an improvement from the season's first four games. Against a talented defense (UCLA ranks ninth nationally in total defense), the Irish can strike quickly and hit the Bruins right in their strong part. If the Irish defense forces a couple quick three and outs, it could be a long afternoon for the visitors.

3. Control Justin Hickman and Bruce Davis: The UCLA defensive ends have done a good job of getting to the quarterback and wreaking havoc behind the line of scrimmage. Hickman has 11 tackles for loss including seven-and-a-half sacks. Davis has eight tackles for loss with four-and-a-half sacks. Irish tackles, Ryan Harris and the freshman Sam Young will have to play physical, something the ND offensive line has been lacking at times.

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, UCLA 20.

Offensive MVP: Brady Quinn will easily find Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight all afternoon against the smaller Bruins' corners. Quinn should throw for 300-plus yards with three touchdowns.

Defensive MVP: Landri will be instrumental in stopping the run, accumulating a few tackles for loss and a sack. Top Stories