UCLA (4-3, 1-2) plays Stanford (2-4,1-2) for the 73rd time in their series history. UCLA leads the series 39-30-3.
In the last 17 games played at the Rose Bowl between UCLA and Stanford, all but four have been decided by five points or less. In the last four meetings at the Rose Bowl, two games were decided by one point, one by two points one by four points.
Stanford and UCLA have both played quite a few freshmen this year. Seven freshmen – five redshirt and two true – have played significant minutes for the Cardinal this year. UCLA has played as many as 14 freshman, with eight getting very significant minutes. In fact, UCLA will be all-freshman up the middle of its offense for the Stanford game – with a freshman center, freshman quarterback, freshman fullback and freshman tailback all starting. UCLA has played nine true freshman alone this season, the most since freshmen became eligible for varsity play in 1972.
Cardinal assistant coach Wayne Moses was UCLA's running backs coach under Terry Donahue from 1990 to 1995.
The Cardinal's 2002 schedule was ranked the third toughest in the nation this week, with its opponents combining for a record of 53-25 (.679).
Stanford's head coach, Buddy Teevens, in his first year at the helm of the Cardinal, taking over for departed Ty Willingham who moved on to Notre Dame.Teevens is in his 23rd year of college coaching. He came to Stanford from Florida, where he was the Assistant Offensive Coordinator and tight ends coach for three seasons. He was Illinois' offensive coordinator before that.
STANFORD'S OFFENSE V. UCLA'S DEFENSE
Stanford has become a running team, with the second-best running game in the Pac-10 and the worst passing offense. Stanford also has the second worst scoring offense in the conference, averaging 24.7 points a game.
Stanford's passing game has definitely not being able to put it together this season. Junior quarterback Chris Lewis has struggled, getting off to a bad start by being suspended for the first game of the year, and then has had to fight off some nagging injuries. At the beginning of the week it was uncertain whether Lewis would start this Saturday due to an injured throwing shoulder. But an MRI revealed no serious injury and Stanford's Head Coach Buddy Teevens expects Lewis to start. Among starters in the Pac-10, Lewis is dead last in passing yards (142.4) and passing efficiency (90.87). He's thrown for only 712 yards in five games, with nine interceptions against only 5 touchdown passes. Lewis has struggled to gel in Teevens' new passing attack, and even said that he felt a renewed confidence after he had spoken with Willingham on the phone last week. It still didn't seem to do much good against Arizona last Saturday, when he completed 14 of 27 passes for 126 yards. In fact, since the Pac-10 has started, Stanford's passing game has been particularly anemic, averaging a total of just 178 yards per game through the air.
Kyle Matter, the redshirt freshman quarterback, has actually looked better than Lewis when stepping in for him. Matter had the biggest passing day so far when he threw for 244 yards in the first game of the season against Boston College in replacing Lewis for his suspension.
In watching Stanford throw the ball, the passing game looks out of sync. Even with standout 6-6 wide receiver Teyo Johnson (pictured at left), who is leading the team in receptions with 25 for the year, as a target. After Johnson, though, Stanford doesn't have a great deal of stand-out talent catching the ball. Perhaps its next best receiver is its tight end, Alex Smith, who, in fact, is its only true tight end, after one tight end left the program and two others are out with injuries. Junior wideout Luke Powell is a bit of a threat opposite of Johnson.
UCLA's defensive backs have been playing well against the pass in recent weeks, which isn't great news for Stanford. Two good passing teams – Oregon and Cal – threw for a combined 335 yards the last two games against UCLA. It's allowing only 199 yards passing a game for the season. While you might not see on specific plays how Matt Ware moving to cornerbacks impacts the passing defense, it has significantly since it gets the most talent on the field. Ben Emanuel (pictured below) had an excellent game against Cal, and is becoming one of UCLA's best defensive players. He is not only great against the run, he excels particularly at covering the underneath and swing patterns and shutting them down for little gain. Plays in the past that UCLA would allow to go for big gainers Emanuel is keeping to 2- or 3-yard gains.
UCLA's DBs, though, are a bit dinged up. Jibril Raymo also played a very good game against Cal before he separated his shoulder with a high-five. His loss for this game does hurt, with UCLA having to use Kevin Brant at safety more often in the substitution rotation. Corner Matt Clark is out with a broken toe, and that hurts the depth at defensive back also. Jarrad Page is slowed a bit by his tendinitis.
Stanford's running game is truly what has carried their offense, if you can actually carry an offense that's second-to-last in the Pac-10. Without their running game, which is probably the most effective element of Stanford's entire team, they very well could be winless, or at least have only one win (against San Jose State).
Stanford's running game succeeds mostly because it has perhaps the best offensive line in the Pac-10. It's led by junior right tackle Kwame Harris, who is emerging as one of the best OLs in the Pac-10 and will probably get national recognition. He's joined by a group that makes up perhaps the most experienced offensive line in the conference. All-conference a year ago, right guard Greg Schindler has started 37 games. He and Harris make the most formidable side of any OL in the west. Two of their three other OLs are experienced seniors, and the junior, Kirk Chambers, is 23 years old and has started every game since he returned from his Mormon mission in 2000.
To complement Stanford's experienced – and big – offensive line, is a stable of big running backs. Starting tailback, senior Kerry Carter, is 6-2 and 235, while his backup, Kenneth Tolon, is 6-1 and 190. Casey Moore, Stanford's fullback, is perhaps their best running back. At 6-2 and 250, the senior leads the team in rushing yards, and is going to go down as one of the best fullbacks in Stanford history. Carter is big and pretty fast, and Tolon is no slouch.
Stanford's offense now emanates from its running game. Even when it throws the ball, it does it quite a bit from play action. But with this offensive line and its big running backs, it's pretty clear that Stanford is going to try to run the ball right down your throat, or more specifically, right over the excellent right side of its offensive line.
UCLA's linebackers, who have played really well all season, will have their hands full plugging holes. UCLA's defense has struggled this year when it faced teams that could run the ball well, especially with big backs. With UCLA's defensive line trying to hold its blockers it will be up to Marcus Reese and Spencer Havner to run down the ball carriers.
Advantage: UCLA. Stanford has a one-dimensional team, and that will allow UCLA to bring its linebackers and defensive backs up and stack the box (to an extent) against Stanford's running game and make them beat them through the air. That could leave 6-6 Teyo Johnson in one-on-one coverage, and that responsibility could come repeatedly to UCLA's designated tall cornerback, Matt Ware. Stanford will try to roll out its quarterback quite a bit off of play action, and throw quickly to avoid the pressure. Dave Ball is emerging as UCLA's best pass rusher and he should be running after Lewis and/or Matter for a majority of the game. Watch for UCLA to bring a lot of pressure out of its zone blitz scheme, trying to overwhelm running holes and put pressure on Stanford's quarterbacks to keep them out of sync. Matter could be getting the call sometime during the game. UCLA, though, has too much defensive firepower and, while Stanford can run the ball, they're far too one-dimensional and don't have enough scoring punch.
UCLA'S OFFENSE V. STANFORD'S DEFENSE This is definitely the unknown element of the game. With Matt Moore likely to get most of the plays as UCLA's quarterback, it's completely impossible to predict how effective UCLA's offense will be. Will he show poise and be as effective as fellow freshman Drew Olson has been this year? Or will he melt down like his other fellow freshman John Sciarra did a week ago?
If you could guarantee that UCLA would just get a decent performance from its quarterback position, the matchup of UCLA's offense against Stanford's defense wouldn't be close. Stanford is giving up a lot of yards, especially through the air, and a lot of points per game. Stanford is allowing 33 points a game for the season.
Stanford's defense has two problems: It's young and inexperienced. Against Arizona last week, Stanford on defense started one redshirt freshman, five sophomores, two juniors and only three seniors. Only two starters return from last year. Their two-deep has 14 freshman or sophomores.
To make up for this, Stanford has gotten a little gimmicky. They're employing the zone blitz quite a bit, trying to utilize some of the speed and athleticism they have in their linebackers and defensive backs. In fact, the leader of the defense, veteran tackle Matt Leonard (pictured at left), has found himself dropped back into pass coverage on occasion in zone blitz situations, and has two interceptions on the year.
Stanford's scheme really makes for its linebackers to shine. Stanford's weakside linebackers, Jon Alston and Michael Craven, have done very well, combining for 43 tackles between the two of them. Alston will start, with Craven a little nicked up, but he's expected to play. Stanford's middle linebacker Jake Covault, has also been solid. It's resulted in a fairly good defense against the run.
Emerging this year as a talent on the defense is sophomore strong safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, who leads the team in tackles. Senior free safety Colin Branch has also played pretty well. Stanford, though, is suspect at corner, where its inexperience has really exposed itself. Its two starting sophomore cornerbacks, Leigh Torrence and Stanley Wilson, have some talent and speed, but their inexperience has really hurt the Cardinal's pass defense this season.
So, that emphasizes the mystery of UCLA's offense even more. With Stanford having a suspect passing defense, if UCLA can throw the ball it should be able to gain some good yards and score some points. But again, the mystery is whether Matt Moore will be effective.
Moore looked good in practice this week. He's athletic, moves well, and has great arm strength. His athletic gifts really aren't the question, though. It's whether, in a real game, he can perform as a true freshman. Moore had less experience than Drew Olson coming into UCLA. But he has good, natural poise.
What Moore does have going for him is an offensive line coming off perhaps its most embarrassing performance of the year last week against Cal and with something to prove. The OL will be fired up, especially senior tackle Mike Saffer (pictured at left), who, when Cory Paus went down last week, rallied the team (and it was working, until Drew Olson went down). Saffer has shown some toughness this year playing with a broken rib, and he knows its his money year. Look for UCLA's OL to make this their calling card game – where they show, coming off a game where two of their quarterbacks were knocked out, that they can protect their true freshman quarterback. Stanford, also doesn't generally rush the passer well, even though you can probably expect them to be trying to get pressure on Moore for most of the game with its zone blitz.
UCLA's offense will try to cater to Moore's inexperience. That is, give him a game plan that doesn't require a lot of audibles and utilizes quick easy throws. Moore will just have to get the ball into the hands of UCLA's talented receiving corps, and allow them to do the work. With young quarterbacks stepping into situations where they have to play far before they're ready, such as in this case, so often one big factor is how tall the quarterback is and, thus, how well he can see the field. Moore, at 6-4, sees the field very well in the pocket, which will probably enable him to see his receivers better than, say, Sciarra does.
UCLA's running game should be challenged by Stanford's run defense, which has been solid this year, especially since UCLA's passing game could be suspect. Stanford will bring more guys into the box to run blitz and get pressure on Moore.
Advantage: Even. UCLA has so much talent and so many weapons on offense, but if its quarterback position can't execute, those weapons are silenced. There is a chance that Matt Moore will step up to the challenge, exceed expectations and the offense will roll. It's not that farfetched. More than likely Moore will show some jitters, but if he can get settled down and in a rhythm, for just a few series, that should be enough for UCLA to score enough points to win.
PREDICTION: Stanford and Arizona played for the second-to-worst honor in the Pac-10 last week, and Stanford edged the Wildcats. Stanford plainly just doesn't have it together on offense, and their defense is vulnerable, particularly through the air. If UCLA can get execution from its quarterback position, it just has too much to not beat Stanford. But there is another factor here. What is the state of UCLA's morale at this point? Having lost two in a row in particularly stinging fashion, UCLA's psyche seems like it could be damaged a bit. With its third-string quarterback starting, its record at 4-3 and teetering on the abyss, the team is up against the wall; if they lose to Stanford, a team that will almost assuredly be in the bottom half of the Pac this year, it could put the team in the tank for the season. Will UCLA have enough emotional toughness to not allow that to happen?