Stanford Preview

The Stanford Cardinal comes to the Rose Bowl Saturday in a very similar situation as UCLA. Both teams are 4-3 overall, 2-2 in conference and playing for their lives. Stanford, as a team, is very similar to Arizona State, which should make for another explosive game...

NOTEWORTHY FACTORS

-- Stanford travels to the Rose Bowl on Saturday to take on UCLA. Kick-off is at 12:30, and the game will be televised by Fox Sports Net.  Barry Thompkins and Petros Papadakis will be calling the action.

-- Stanford and UCLA have matching records of 4-3 and 2-2 for the season.

-- Stanford beat San Jose State (43-3); beat BYU (37-10); lost to USC, 31-28; beat Washington, 27-13, lost at Notre Dame 23-15; beat Washington State in Pullman, 23-17, and lost to Oregon at home, 16-13, last week.

-- Saturday's game marks the 75th meeting between the two schools in a series that dates back to 1925, with UCLA leading the series, 40-31-3.

-- Stanford has won three of the last five meetings, including last year's game in Palo Alto, 21-14.  Stanford's defense limited UCLA to just 48 yards rushing in that game.

-- Stanford is coached by Buddy Teevens, who is in his third year on The Farm.  He came to Stanford from Florida, where he served as the Gators' offensive coordinator under Steve Spurrier. Before that he was the head coach at Maine, Dartmouth and Tulane.  In his two and a half seasons at Stanford, Teevens is 10-19. Most Stanford watchers agree that Teevens' head coaching seat is hot, and that he'd need to pull out a successful year this season to retain his job, after his first two seasons of going 2-9 and 4-7.  In fact, this game against UCLA could be critical in determining Teevens' future at Stanford.  At 4-3, he would probably need to win at least two of his remaining four regular season games to at least be safer in his job.  After UCLA, Stanford goes to Arizona State, has Oregon State at home and then is on the road against Cal.  So, Stanford watchers consider the UCLA game a must-win for Teevens.

-- 14 of Stanford's 22 starters on offense and defense are upper classmen.  On defense, Stanford starts six seniors, four juniors and one sophomore. Stanford does not start one freshman or redshirt freshman on their offense or defense.

-- UCLA receiver Craig Bragg has moved into second place on UCLA's career reception list with 170.  He needs just 10 to move to the top of the list.

-- UCLA place-kicker Justin Medlock has not missed a field goal so far this season, a perfect 9 for 9.

-- Statistically, Stanford is very similar to UCLA's opponent from last week, Arizona State. Stanford is 8th in rushing offense in the Pac-10, while ASU is 9th.  Stanford is 4th in rushing defense, ASU 5th.  Stanford is 9th in pass defense, with ASU 10th.  In passing offense, ASU is 2nd in the conference and Stanford is 4th, and in total defense Stanford is 5th while ASU is 7th.   ASU is also 4th in scoring while Stanford is 5th,  and Stanford is 3rd in scoring defense while ASU is 4th.

-- It is UCLA's homecoming game Saturday.  Members of UCLA's 1954 National Championship team will be honored during halftime. This season marks the 50th anniversary of the championship.

STANFORD'S OFFENSE V. UCLA'S DEFENSE

What you saw last week against Arizona State could very well be what you see against Stanford this week.

Stanford is very similar to Arizona State offensively, in terms of production from its running game and passing game.  In other words, Stanford doesn't run the ball very well but has been fairly successful passing it this season.

The Stanford passing game, in fact, probably has a couple more weapons than does ASU.  It has one of the best receivers in the conference in senior tight end Alex Smith (6-5, 255). In fact, he's arguably the best tight end in the Pac-10 (arguable since there is Marcedes Lewis).  He's caught 34 passes on the year, averaging almost five a game. He's reliable, runs great routes and has good quickness for his size, which allows him to advance the ball up the field well after the catch.

Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards.

Stanford, then, practically has a second tight end as a wideout in sophomore Evan Moore (6-7, 235). Moore, a pretty good basketball player, is exceptional at using his size to be able to block out smaller defensive backs.  Then, on top of Moore and Smith, Stanford has another standout sophomore receiver in Mark Bradford (6-2, 190), their returning reception leader from a year ago.  He's crafty, has good hands and is deceptionally strong.  Those three are a pretty formidable trio, especially for a UCLA passing defense that has greatly struggled in the last two weeks.  And if that's not enough, coming off the bench is another big, productive receiver in junior Justin McCullum (6-4, 220).

In other words, UCLA's passing defense has its hands full.  It's not really a great time to be breaking in a new starter at one of the corners, especially a redshirt freshman. But with former starter Marcus Cassel faltering, UCLA is starting Trey Brown for the first time this week. 

And it's not just a personnel issue that has hurt UCLA in its pass defense in recent weeks. Missed assignments has also been a glaring issue.  Bottom line,  with how UCLA's rushing defense has been so poor so far this season, the defense had at least its passing defense to hang its hat on. But now, it's all a big question mark.

UCLA safety Jarrad Page.

Much could depend on how Stanford's sophomore quarterback, Trent Edwards (6-4, 210) performs. Edwards was thought to be questionable for the game, possibly with a concussion, but the latest word is he'll play. He's had a pretty decent year, especially for his first starting. He has very good arm strength and throws the long ball well, but his accuracy has been questionable at times, especially against defenses that put pressure on him. Back-up,  redshirt freshman T.C. Ostrander (6-3, 21) stepped in for Edwards last week against Oregon and did pretty well.

Pressure on the quarterback might not be such an issue for the Cardinal this week.  UCLA has probably the worst pass rush in the conference, having the least number of sacks. Last week against ASU, Sun Devil quarterback Andrew Walter had so much time in the pocket he cut up UCLA's secondary in crunch time.

In comparison to ASU, though, Stanford, in fact, has a better running game. They actually have some running backs, junior J.R. Lemon (6-2, 225) and senior Kenneth Tolon (6-1, 210). Together they've been moderately effective. The Stanford offensive line hasn't done very well in opening up running lanes this season, at least against teams with good rushing defenses.  They did, though, run for 202 yards against Washington, which is the ninth best rushing defense in the conference, giving up 188 yards per game. UCLA is 10th, giving up 237 per game.

In other words, there really isn't any evidence to lead you to believe that UCLA will stop Stanford's offense, or even bend and not break. 

The only hope is that Justin London, UCLA's ailing middle linebacker, will be more mobile this week, and that Justin Hickman, the sophomore defensive end, will be able to contribute after returning from his injury.  There is also hope that linebacker Spencer Havner will return to the form he had before the last two games. 

Holding the defense together for the season has been Jarrad Page, the strong safety. He's been not only all over the field, but the team's most dependable tackler. 

UCLA defensive coordinator Larry Kerr will again try to be aggressive in his blitzing and alignments, but with the lack of talent and experience, in the last couple of weeks he hasn't been able to mask the deficiencies of the UCLA defense like he had done previously.  He'll probably try, futilely, to put pressure on Edwards, recognizing that the quarterback is far less effective when hurried and that Stanford has been poor at protecting him and picking up blitzes. But UCLA's pass rush has been so ineffective, it will probably just result in very little quarterback pressure and, again, the mismatch of a young, inexperienced cornerback on some talented receivers.

Advantage:  Stanford.  UCLA could very well opt to go the more conservative route on defense and not pressure the quarterback.  More than likely, if what Kerr has done so far this season, he'll probably try to devise different looks and different blitz packages to disrupt Stanford's offensive rhythm and its quarterback. But UCLA just doesn't have the talent to pull it off. It could be more successful by playing an essentially prevent defense for most of the game, taking away the long ball and long run, and make Stanford have to nickel and dime you down the field. They'll no doubt score at the end of most drives, but it could make Stanford eat up too much clock and keep them from scoring beyond what UCLA's offense can match.  In other words, with this defense, it might prove more effective to be conservative. But this is all just patchwork. Stanford's offense is too potent, and UCLA probably won't be able to keep it from putting up around 40 points.

UCLA'S OFFENSE V. STANFORD'S DEFENSE

Again, it's very similar to the matchup against Arizona State. Stanford gives up 117 yards per game on the ground, while ASU gives up 121.  Stanford allows 235 yards through the air per game, and ASU allows 236. 

Stanford, like ASU, is tougher against the run, and pretty lenient through the air.

In other words, UCLA should again pass the ball around 40 times in this game, using the passing game to open up the running game like it did effectively last week against ASU. 

UCLA receiver Tab Perry.

UCLA does get back its best receiver in Craig Bragg, and he should be a factor.  But, in his absense, Tab Perry and Joe Cowan stepped up and filled some of the void, which now gives UCLA a great deal of options catching the ball. Marcedes Lewis, UCLA's 6-6 tight end, is still probably UCLA's most dangerous threat since he's so hard to defend against. Watch for Tom Cable, UCLA's offensive coordinator, try to exploit Lewis even more against Stanford, trying to get him matched up one-on-one with Stanford's corners. 

As quarterback Drew Olson said himself about his performance last week, it was probably his best game of his career, except for four throws. Those throws happened to be four very costly interceptions.  Olson, though, will probably have more time to throw the ball against Stanford, since they haven't had a great pass rush this season. And coming off last week, you can probably expect him to be a bit more cautious in trying to force throws into covered receivers.

UCLA's rushing game now has a triple-headed monster.  Maurice Drew and Manuel White start out the game with their Thunder and Lightning, softening up the defense for freshman tailback Chris Markey's fresh legs. The theory was effective against Arizona State last week and will probably be so again this week against Stanford.

Stanford safety Oshiomogho Atogwe.

The Cardinal have generally played good defense on the year. They are led by their senior free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe (6-0, 205), who is one of the headiest and most aggressive defensive backs in the conference. He plainly makes a great deal of plays.  Stanford's cornerbacks, senior Leigh Torrence (6-0, 183) and senior Stanley Wilson (6-0, 189), are solid.

Stanford's 3-4 defense has taken advantage of its experienced linebacking group.  Inside junior linebacker Kevin Schimmelmann (6-3, 215) leads the team in tackles. His compatriots, fellow inside 'backer, senior David Bergeron (6-4, 235) and junior outside linebacker Jon Alston (6-1, 215) are having fine years themselves. Stanford's defensive strength definitely has been in their linebackers.

Up front, junior tackle Julian Jenkins (6-4, 275) is the player to watch. Being converted from end, he combines good quickness and strength, leading the team in sacks with 4.5.

Overall, Stanford's defense isn't overly talented, but they are experienced, returning 9 starters from a season ago. They don't make a great many mistakes.

Advantage: UCLA. So far, UCLA's offense hasn't been stopped yet this season. Two weeks ago, it put up the most yards yet this year against the #1 defense in the conference. Last week, Cable opened up the passing game more and the offense responded with its most yards and highest scoring total of the season.  And that was with a number of more scoring opportunities squandered because of turnovers.  The passing game should be even more formidable with its main weapon, Craig Bragg, returning.  The running game has found its theory, playing off the passing game, and utilizing three effective tailbacks.  Stanford's defense will probably be a little better in defending the pass since it has a better set of defensive backs than ASU. But UCLA just has too many weapons with Bragg, Lewis, Perry and Cowan, along with its running game and what has been probably the most effective offensive line in the conference.  Stanford likes to use its linebackers to run blitz and pressure the quarterback, but UCLA has seen it before and not faltered. 

Prediction:  It has all the makings of a shootout.  It could very well be similar to last week's game, where the team with the ball last, who doesn't turn it over, wins.  Turnovers, in fact, usually are a big factor in these kinds of games, and they could very well be this week.  Stanford's experienced, senior-laden team has been good at taking care of the ball all season, while UCLA's youngsters haven't.  Stanford will be hyped up for a win, knowing that a winning season and a bowl bid very well could be contingent on this game.  UCLA's squad has shown great resiliency and heart all season. So, all indicators point to a high-scoring, poorly-defended, exciting game.  In the end, UCLA has more talent and, coming off last week and with the fallout from the turnovers, should protect the ball better.

UCLA 41
Stanford 38


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