My DVR is set to record all shows with the keywords "Stanford" and "sports," and earlier this week it produced an early season matchup from 2009 between the Cardinal and the UCLA Bruins. Toby Gerhart wasn't even being mentioned yet as a Heisman candidate, and Andrew Luck was still just a young prospect out of Houston, Texas, but Stanford still managed a 24-16 victory, their first in six years against the Bruins. They haven't lost to UCLA since then, and they'll look to keep that streak alive this afternoon when they host the Bruins. (Incidentally, they're also looking to extend another streak, thirteen straight wins against teams from California. As the players will tell you, they're the Kings of Cali, and they've owned the state since 2010.)
This Bruin team, however, is probably the best team the state has offered during that stretch. They enter the game at 5-0 and ranked #9 in the country, and they have a legitimate Heisman candidate in quarterback Brett Hundley. If you didn't like watching Utah's offense last Saturday, you might want to consider doing some yardwork this afternoon because UCLA will bring more of the same. The Cardinal defense will get another shot at a defending outside screens and containing a mobile passer.
This has suddenly become the biggest game of the year for the Cardinal, and I think last weekend's loss will provide the extra motivation they'll need to get past the Bruins. The prediction here is Stanford 37, UCLA 24.
To take a look at the other side of things, I give you Carlos Sandoval from the UCLA blog GoJoeBruin.com. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about the Bruins, so let's get to it...
When Brett Hundley chose UCLA a few years ago, he was immediately painted as the savior, and he's pretty much lived up to the expectations. Stanford fans saw plenty from him last year, but it seems like he's been even better this season. How would you assess his performance through the first five games?
Hundley has been better, but while he's become more decisive (for the most part) and more athletic, I'd attribute a good chunk of his improvement to better pass protection. Last year, Hundley was one of the most sacked QBs in the country and while he's still getting hit a good amount, he's way more capable of dropping back to throw vertically than he was last year. He's a darn good QB, but his offensive line has accelerated his development.
Has the offense changed much since the departure of Johnathan Franklin? Will we still see motion through the backfield on every snap, or has the NCAA finally made that illegal?
The offense has definitely not abandoned the run. Jordon James, pre-injury, carried UCLA's run game and had three straight games with 100 yards rushing to start the season. More importantly, the emergence of RBs Paul Perkins and Steven Manfro makes the run game a lot more dynamic. And no, the NCAA hasn't made that illegal yet; have they made ripping off opponents' helmets purposefully yet (looking at you, Skov)?
The Bruins also lost a star on the other side of the ball with the graduation of Datone Jones. Aside from Anthony Barr, who else can we expect to impact the game for the UCLA defense?
Boy, this defense has way more playmakers than I would have anticipated. LB Myles Jack is going to be an All-American, and he's going to win a ton of praise after this season... and he's a true freshman. If I were to guess, he's going to be a much bigger star than Barr currently is by the end of his sophomore year. Aside from him, Keenan Graham, a defensive tackle, is quite the sack-master. The secondary doesn't stink like we thought either, and though it has its mistakes, they definitely won't easily let Hogan throw a game-tying touchdown pass on third and forever late in the game on a prayer toss.
How do Bruin fans feel about Jim Mora? I'm sure everyone's excited to be 5-0, but forget about the record for a moment, if that's possible. How is he doing?
They love him. Personally? I'm always going to be critical of any coach at any stage of his career. What aggravates me about Mora is the amount of penalties his teams have racked up through his first 19 games. That, and his teams take nights off when they're up against way lesser competition. Overall, though, he's a great human being and, knock on wood, a fine coach.
UCLA travels to Stanford this week and Oregon next week, a two-game stretch that will go a long ways towards defining their season. Finish these three sentences for me.
Okay, back to this week's game. Does this game carry any extra weight in Bruin Nation because of the two games last season? Do you expect any of that to carry over to this week? Finally, how do you see the game going, and what's your predicted final score?
For me, it carries all the weight. No UCLA fan hates Stanford more than I do. I mean, aside from Stanford getting lucky on one or two plays that decided the game, the crowd was pathetic, filling up, what, 30 to 40 percent of a 55,000-seat stadium. They didn't deserve to host a game like that. Not with those fans. The team remembers, though. They'll come out with a bit more intensity with that game firmly in mind.