Stanford Cardinal Defense
Stanford’s offense is still solid, but they are not what they have been in past years, at least that is what it seems like through three games. Disregarding Rice, Stanford gave up 623 yards to USC (316 passing, 307 rushing) and 353 against SDSU (187 passing, 166 rushing).
The Cardinal defensive line has been pushed around quite a bit lately. SB Nations’s Rule of Tree details the troubles the D-line had against SDSU as they constantly got pushed back. One of the more telling lines from this article reveals a possible weakness UCLa can exploit, “The defensive line gets pushed back three or four yards before even making contact with the runner.” If you have been closely paying attention to UCLA’s run game this season, it has slowly been improving as they are averaging 121.7 yards per game, better than the 84.3 from last season.
"Did You Know… Stanford is no longer in Palo Alto. It is now in Stanford, CA. Weird."
The Bruins run by committee and with OC Jedd Fisch’s tendency to be deceptive, this could work in UCLA’s favor. It comes down to how the D-line plays against UCLA’s O-line. Stanford always seems to dominate in the trenches against UCLA, so I do not expect Stanford to get pushed around, but hey, this season is wacky, who knows what will happen.
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Stanford could limit the run, but how will they do against Josh Rosen and the passing game? Stanford’s total defense is pretty pedestrian, stat-wise, as they give up 407.3 yards per game (8th in the Pac-12), 199.3 of which were given up through the air (6th in the Pac-12).
The question here is, can they limit the 442.3 yards UCLA puts through the air? If Stanford wants to disrupt the Bruins’ passing game, they have to pressure Rosen. We saw against Memphis that Rosen, though deadly, can be put in awkward situations and make bad choices.
The Cardinal bring pressure from different areas and like UCLA, Stanford has 9 sacks (3rd in the Pac-12) so far. Nine players have at least a shared sack and 15 at least share a tackle for a loss. If Stanford tries to go after Rosen, DE Harrison Phillips, DE Eric Cotton and LB Casey Toohill could be a couple players we see in the Bruin backfield.
Though the Cardinal secondary is good, they need to be extra sharp against Rosen who has an NCAA leading 1,283 passing yards and 13 touchdowns per game. Rosen can throw a ball into a window slightly bigger than the ball itself, so the Stanford DBs need to play an almost perfect game.
There is no reason why anyone would pick UCLA to beat Stanford, considering the last nine contests. David Shaw always seems to know how to have his team play again Jim Mora. Even if Stanford struggles in the game before and after they play the Bruins, they always seem to play like champions against UCLA.
Like I stated above, there are several factors that give this game a weird vibe where (wait for it)… so anything can happen. But the way these teams matchup, it is going to be interesting to see how UCLA’s D handles Stanford’s offense and how the Cardinal defense takes on Rosen and his gang. Both teams have advantages that could lead them to victory, but they also have weaknesses that could make them stumble before the clock hits 00:00.
What will probably happen: Stanford 28 – UCLA 24
What I think will happen: UCLA 38 – Stanford 32