Stanford Preview

UCLA begins the stretch in its schedule that makes or breaks its season against Stanford this Saturday. Stanford has yet to face a defense like UCLA's this season...

NOTEWORTHY FACTORS:

-- Stanford faces its third straight undefeated team in a row when it plays UCLA Saturday, and its second-straight top five opponent.

-- The Cardinal did what many considered near-impossible last week: They won at Oregon's Autzen Stadium. That win snapped Oregon's 23-home game winning streak. Stanford came back from two 14-point deficits to win.

-- Since 1989, seven of the last 12 meetings between UCLA and Stanford have been decided by four points or less.

-- The last time UCLA and Stanford met when the Bruins were ranked in the top five was in 1998. UCLA was 6-0, ranked #1 in the nation by the BCS. UCLA pulled out a victory 28-24.

-- Stanford is a very experienced team. It returned 16 starters from last season, including 9 on defense. In fact, Stanford is so senior-laden, that it's entire projected starting defense for the UCLA game is made up of seniors. Six seniors will start on offense.

-- Cardinal Luke Powell leads the nation in punt returns, averaging an astounding 22.0 yards a return. Brian Allen, the Cardinal's kick returner, isn't a slouch himself, currently eighth in the nation, averaging 30.7 yards a return.

-- Randy Fasani, Stanford's starting senior quarterback, sprained his right knee last week against Oregon and is out 4-6 weeks.

-- Last week, back-up sophomore quarterback Chris Lewis came off the bench for the third time in his career to replace an injured Randy Fasani and lead Stanford to a come-from-behind victory.

-- The last time UCLA allowed fewer than 77 points in its first six games of the season was in 1980.

-- Matt Ware, UCLA's freshman starting cornerback,will more than likely start on Saturday, overcoming the ankle sprain he suffered against Cal last week.

-- Cory Paus had his best game of the season last year against Stanford when he threw for 328 yards and 3 TDs.  DeShaun Foster ran for 159 yards.

-- UCLA QB Cory Paus has thrown 189 straight passes without an interception, dating back to last season. He is 27 passes away from the Pac-10 record.

-- DeShaun Foster could break many more UCLA records this season, if he continues near the same pace of rushing yards through the first six games. Foster is 617 yards away from breaking UCLA's All-Time Rushing Yardage mark. For his career, he currently has 3,015 yards while Gaston Green holds the record at 3,731 yards. He is thirteen touchdowns away from setting the All-Time Touchdown Record, currently having 42 career touchdowns and trailing Skip Hicks' 55.

STANFORD'S OFFENSE V. UCLA'S DEFENSE

The most significant factor in this matchup is the loss of Stanford's starting quarterback, Randy Fasani. He'll be replaced by former Long Beach Poly quarterback, Chris Lewis, who has had a flair for big wins in relief of Fasani, but, being only a sophomore, there is a considerable drop off in production from Fasani to Lewis. UCLA's defense has had a knack for rattling quarterbacks this year, and actually putting them in hospitals. In the last two games against Washington and Cal, UCLA didn't even blitz very much, not really having to since it was getting a good push from its defensive front. You can probably expect to see UCLA blitz more in this game, especially early, in hopes of getting to Lewis, hitting him a few times and getting him rattled. Lewis is pretty tough and doesn't seem to get rattled much, but he is still a little raw in his skills, and UCLA hopes that a few hits on him can get him off his game even more. Even if Lewis does play pretty well, you still have to factor in that the loss of Fasani will translate into some points on the board for the Cardinal.

Stanford has been pretty successful throwing the ball this season due not only to its quarterbacks, but to its receivers. 5-8 sophomore Luke Powell is Stanford's most consistent threat at receiver, ranking in the top ten in receptions and receiving yards in the Pac-10. As noted above, he also leads the country in punt returns, averaging an astounding 22.0 yards a return. He's a little target, but very quick and shifty, and hard to get a hold of.

Emerging as a big threat for the Cardinal is Teyo Johnson, the 6-7 former quarterback and a forward on the Cardinal basketball team. Johnson caught five balls for 95 yards and a touchdown last week against Oregon, and looked very impressive doing it, being just too big for Oregon's cornerbacks to handle. Johnson, while still raw in his pass-catching skills, brings a great basketball mentality to catching passes, knowing how to use his body well and "box out." While Johnson has only been in the game at receiver or tight end a third of the time in Stanford's offense, you can probably expect to see him more after last week's performance. Especially since the best matchup against Johnson would be UCLA's freshman cornerback Matt Ware, who's 6-3, but Ware could be slowed by the ankle sprain he suffered last week against Cal. After Ware, UCLA doesn't have a cornerback taller than 5-11. Cornerback Ricky Manning (pictured above right) will have his hands full in this game, either having to defend against the dangerous, little Powell, or body up on the 6-7 Johnson, who is almost a foot taller and 65 pounds heavier than Manning.

Stanford has been successful offensively this year (averaging 449 yards a game) because its balanced, not only throwing the ball well but running the ball equally as well. Stanford is third in the Pac-10 in rushing yards per game, averaging 189, led by senior running back Brian Allen. Allen has proven to be a solid running back, and had two particularly good games this year against Washington State and Arizona State, two teams that have pretty decent rushing defenses.

But perhaps the biggest reason why Stanford has been successful on the ground is its excellent offensive line, led by All-American candidate, senior guard Eric Heitmann (6-4, 295) (pictured at left). Heitmann is one of the best in the league, if not the best, and Allen has been running quite a bit right over his left guard position. But the line is also solid from tackle to tackle, featuring two other seniors next to Heitmann in the middle, and highly-recruited and vastly talented sophomore Kwame Harris (6-7, 308) at one of the tackle positions. Bob Toledo said that Stanford's OL is the best UCLA will face all year and it doesn't look like it's close.

So, that means that the biggest matchup of the year in the trenches comes this Saturday when Stanford's OL meets UCLA's defensive front, which is earning a reputation as one of the best in the nation. Not only is UCLA incredibly deep and talented at tackle, but it's getting excellent play from Kenyon Coleman at the strongside defensive end position. While most of the time when you watch a game you follow the ball, it could be almost more interesting to isolate on the individual matchups here. Harris will face Coleman head-to-head, and Heitmann will line up across from UCLA's star sophomore defensive tackle Rod Leisle. It should be glorious.

Advantage: Slightly goes to UCLA, and what tips the scales toward the Bruins is the loss of Fasani. UCLA will probably be pulling out surprises in blitzes, dogs, stunts and such against Stanford and Fasani's experience and superior athleticism will be missed here. Also, watch for UCLA's middle linebacker and Butkus Award candidate Robert Thomas to be a big factor. It's a money game for him, carried on national television, when he always seems to play really phenomenally. UCLA's defense leads the Pac-10 in allowing only 12.8 points a game, while Stanford's offense averages a whopping 39.6 points a game. Something obviously has to give here, and while Stanford's high-powered offense will get some points, without Fasani, against UCLA's defense, with a great defensive line to matchup against Stanford's OL, it appears this is the matchup that could limit Stanford's offense.

UCLA'S OFFENSE V. STANFORD'S DEFENSE

While the matchup between UCLA's defense and Stanford's offense is a close one to call, the matchup here between UCLA's offense and Stanford's defense is perhaps easier.

Stanford is allowing 30.6 points a game, and 38.5 on an average in its last two games. The last two games Stanford has played have been against two good offenses, Washington State and Oregon, where they've shown some considerable vulnerability both against the run and the pass. And even moreso against the pass. Stanford is seventh against the pass in the Pac-10, giving up an average of 274 yards a game.

The type of defense that UCLA's offense matches up against the best are defenses that defend the run better than the pass, since UCLA's running game is more potent than UCLA's passing game. It allows for UCLA's sometimes shaky passing game to get its yards, and when UCLA's offense is getting yards through the air, it's pretty difficult to stop. Stanford, quite simply, doesn't defend the pass well. And very encouraging for UCLA, Stanford is last in the Pac-10 in sacks, having recorded only 7 on the season so far. UCLA quarterback Cory Paus is drooling, especially with the team keying on UCLA's Heisman candidate for a running back, DeShaun Foster. And last week against Cal, the UCLA receivers showed they can step up without Brian Poli-Dixon, who is still out with a dislocated shoulder. Stanford is not without its talent in its defensive secondary, led by senior safety Tank Williams, who has three interceptions on the season, but you can expect UCLA to go to the air without any hesitation. Watch for UCLA to throw even more to its tight ends and fullbacks, with it proving to be successful last week and in recent weeks.

Stanford's front seven takes a big hit with the loss of its star at defensive tackle, Matt Leonard, who's out with an injury. When it comes to information on the team, such as concerning injuries, Stanford is pretty tight-lipped, so it's uncertain whether Leonard will play this week after not even making the trip to Oregon last week. He's not listed on Stanford's depth chart for the game.

The strength of Stanford's defense is probably its linebackers, led by one of the best in the Pac-10, Coy Wire (pictured above right).Wire leads the team in tackles, and is the heart and soul of the Cardinal defense. He's not big at 6-1 and about 220 pounds, but quick and very heady.

As with any defense that faces UCLA, Stanford's prime objective will be to stop Foster. When Foster gets unleashed, UCLA wins. At this point, though, it seems like it might be a difficult task to stop Foster they way he's running. Also, UCLA made it pretty clear against Cal last week that it is quite prepared to not give Foster the ball and throw it, if that's what it will take to win, which was exactly the signal Toledo wanted to send. Foster had a big game against Stanford last year. The tailback positions at Oregon and Washington State both collected over 100 yards each against Stanford in the last two weeks, so you'd have to think that Foster will get his yards and his highlights. But whether Stanford stops Foster is not going to decide whether UCLA can move the football.

Also of significance here is that UCLA's starting guard, Shane Lehmann, will probably not start or play. Last week he was replaced by freshman Steve Vieira, whom Cal exploited early. Whether UCLA's offensive line can make a seamless transition with Vieira getting the major minutes at guard is a question. UCLA's offensive line was improving every game this year, until the Cal game.

The most significant aspect of Stanford's defense is its experience. Stanford, as of a couple of days ago, will start 11 seniors on defense. While it might not have some elite talent, it certainly makes up for it in experience and intelligence.

Advantage: UCLA. Stanford has given up a lot of points this year, particularly in its last two games. UCLA's offense seems to be beginning to spread its wings, so to speak, through the air, which makes it so much more dangerous than if it were just DeShaun Foster. The prime matchup here will be against Stanford's pretty good run defense and Foster, but UCLA looks to have a clear advantage in the passing game against Stanford's passing defense. If there's been one real vulnerability to UCLA's offense this year is its penchant for giving up the sack and not giving Paus enough time to throw. With Stanford having probably the worst pass rush in the conference, Paus could continue where he left off against Cal last week.

PREDICTION:

Again, the significant loss here is Fasani for Stanford, which has to be worth at least a touchdown. UCLA has proven that it's a road-tested team, so going into quiet Stanford Stadium doesn't really give Stanford much of a home-field advantage. Stanford's offense won't be able to be completely shut down, but the Cardinal has yet to face a defense as good as UCLA's. And there's a feeling to UCLA's offense that it's starting to get rolling. Then there is also the factor that the UCLA coaching staff will unveil some surprises this week, knowing that this is the three-game stretch on its schedule that pretty much decides the season. There's no reason to hold back anything now. UCLA's defense frustrates Stanford's offense, Foster gets 150 yards and Paus throws for 250.

UCLA 38

Stanford 20


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