Week 8 - UCLA at Stanford

Posted Oct 16, 2013

Week 8 Fearless Prediction & Preview - UCLA at Stanford

Week 8 
USC at Notre Dame
- UCLA at Stanford
- Washington at Arizona State
-- CSU at Colorado, Utah at Arizona
- Wazzu at Oregon, Oregon St at Cal

UCLA (5-0) at Stanford (5-1) Oct. 19, 3:30, ABC

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Stanford inexplicably lost at unranked Utah last Saturday, leaving the door open for someone else to occupy the coveted No. 2 slot behind Oregon in the Pac-12. Is No. 9 UCLA poised to fill it?

The Bruins have played impeccably well to start the second year of the Jim Mora era. Rising rapidly to their highest ranking in eight years, they've already gone on the road to beat Nebraska and the same Ute squad that shocked the Cardinal a week ago. But is UCLA really ready to take the next step by becoming more than just the South Division favorite? Back-to-back games with Stanford and the Ducks are going to dictate just how high the bar might rise in Westwood in 2013.

Stanford showed hints of vulnerability two weeks ago versus Washington. Last Saturday at Rice-Eccles, the dream of a perfect season caved in, and any margin for error in the Pac-12 race evaporated. Something has been missing for the Cardinal, a lack of an identity and execution that's been puzzling. While the program still has a ton for which to play, including a shot at a fourth straight BCS bowl berth, the season will go south in a hurry if it fails to rebound on the Farm.

Why UCLA Might Win: The Stanford defense has been surprisingly more vulnerable than in recent seasons, yielding more than 400 yards in each of the last two games. Bruin QB Brett Hundley plans to further exploit the creases that Washington and Utah located. The sophomore is emerging as one of the more complete players at the position, rushing for 260 yards and three scores, while spreading his throws around. The D has been vastly underrated since halftime of the Nebraska game. UCLA is No. 2 nationally in third-down stops, and if someone doesn't get a consistent hat on LB Anthony Barr, he'll take the game over.

Why Stanford Might Win: At the point of attack, the Cardinal still has an edge on the Bruins. LG Xavier Su'a-Filo aside, UCLA remains average up front, a situation exacerbated by the season-ending injury to OT Torian White. Stanford is loaded with size, strength and experience in the front seven, led by DE Ben Gardner and linebackers Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov. The Cardinal's 24th-ranked run defense will obviously have to worry about Hundley, but not likely his top back, injured Jordon James. On defense, the Bruins might be without their nastiest lineman, DE Cassius Marsh, who was ejected from the Cal game. Stanford has talent, but it also has a sense of urgency, courtesy of last week's stumble.

Who To Watch Out For: There might not be a more valuable offensive weapon to one team than Ty Montgomery has been to Stanford. The gamebreaker as a wide receiver and a kick returner is the one player that the UCLA defenders will have to monitor at all times. So far, sophomore Bruin corners Ishmael Adams and Fabian Moreau have been terrific at limiting long balls.

- Assuming James remains a scratch, to what extent can Mora count on rookie Paul Perkins to help keep the Bruins balanced? In his first start last week against a far more flexible Cal defense, he only managed to rush for 36 yards and a short score on 14 carries.

- Utah hurt the Stanford defense a week ago by spreading the field out to the perimeter and away from the tackle box. Look for UCLA to attempt to replicate that blueprint, with receivers Shaq Evans, Jordan Payton and Devin Fuller doing their best to neutralize the Cardinal's edge at the line.

What Will Happen: Stanford is not the same team it was a year ago, but it'll fight out of a corner with its back against the wall this week. The Cardinal has too much talent, on both sides of the ball, to drop back-to-back games. For the first time this year, Hundley will be taken out of his game, getting forced to make things happen on the move. Much like Washington did two weeks ago, UCLA will make a statement at Stanford Stadium, but fall just a little short in its quest to remain perfect.

Prediction: Stanford 29 … UCLA 27
Line: Stanford -5.5 – O/U: 54
Must See Rating: (5 Bad Grandpa – 1 Vanilla Ice Goes Amish) … 4.5
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