The second half of UCLA's season today with the Bruins hoping to play less like they did in the first half of the season. Stanford has bowl aspirations and still a shot at the Pacific 10 Conference championship. However, the Cardinal has lost five in a row at the Rose Bowl. Times staff writer Chris Foster looks at the issues and key matchups in today's game:
UCLA spent the last week trying to shore up its run defense. The Bruins seemed to be thinking they were playing flag football against Oregon last week. The Ducks finished with 323 yards rushing, the most given up by a UCLA defense coached by DeWayne Walker.
The Cardinal has the Pacific 10 Conference's second-best running game, averaging 184 yards a game. Stanford has not lost a game this season in which it has rushed for more than 200 yards.
"This is a power running offense that puts a lot of pressure on the defense," UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We've got our hands full."
UCLA defenders had their hands full during last week's game as well, but only momentarily. The Ducks shed tacklers like investors have been shedding bank stock. The Bruins' defense fiddled with personnel this week. Glenn Love will play some at strong safety and Datone Jones will play more at defensive end.
Norm Chow, UCLA's offensive coordinator, has a take-what-they-offer-us philosophy. Of course, Stanford didn't offer Chow its head coaching job in 2005, giving it to Walt Harris instead.
Stanford's defense may be much more accommodating. The Cardinal has given up more than 300 yards passing three times this season. Meanwhile, the Bruins and quarterback Kevin Craft have put on a few aerial shows this season -- the fourth quarter against Tennessee, cameo appearances through the Washington State game, and the second half against Oregon.
This could be a harmonic convergence that pleases UCLA.
This game has significant bowl ramifications for Stanford.
A victory leaves the Cardinal one shy of being bowl eligible. The last bowl game Stanford played in doesn't exist anymore -- the Seattle Bowl, where the Cardinal lost to Georgia Tech, 24-14, in 2001.
The Bruins' bowl chances hover somewhere between those of the Dodgers retaining Manny Ramirez (it's going to take a lot) and Pete Carroll dressing up as Joe Bruin for Halloween (yeah, right).
Still, UCLA fans can take heart, and some joy, in what second-year Coach Jim Harbaugh has done at Stanford. He upset USC in his first season and has his team looking at postseason possibilities in his second.
Neuheisel and UCLA would like to take a similar path.
Stanford has not scored a point in the Rose Bowl since Michael Sgroi kicked a 42-yard field goal for an 18-10 lead with 6:47 left in the first half in 2002. The Bruins have outscored the Cardinal 70-0 since, a scoreless streak that has reached 156 minutes 47 seconds of game time.
Warning to UCLA fans: The Stanford band is expected to attend the game.
By the numbers
*--* UCLA CATEGORY STAN 20.0 Scoring 24.3 30.7 Points given up 27.0 205.5 Passing off. 149.7 91.7 Rushing off. 184.1 297.2 Total offense 333.9 196.2 Passing def. 271.7 171.3 Rushing def. 114.3 367.5 Total defense 386.0 *--*
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Cardinal has scores to settle
Here's a streak that will all but certainly end: Stanford hasn't scored against UCLA at the Rose Bowl since 2002 and the Bruins have scored the last 70 points at the stadium. But will the Cardinal's five-game losing streak in Pasadena end today? What to look for during the game:
* Grounded: UCLA is hoping to have more success against Stanford's straight-ahead running attack than it did last week against Oregon's spread offense. The magic number: 200. The Cardinal hasn't lost when it has rushed for at least that many yards in a game.
* Passing grade: A Stanford secondary that has given up plenty of yardage will be tested by a "Crafty" UCLA passing attack that has had its moments.
* Bowl market: Coach Rick Neuheisel and UCLA fans take note: Stanford appears bowl-bound in Coach Jim Harbaugh's second season.
* Pointless: Let's play College Football Jeopardy. Here's the answer: Michael Sgroi. What's the question?
* Scary tune: If all else fails, there's sure to be some kind of entertainment at the game. But if you're a Bruins fan, you may not enjoy it.
See D6 for details