UCLA will face the nation's No. 1 defense against the run when the Bruins play at Stanford on Saturday. In three games, the Cardinal has given up an average of 36 yards.
"That's just unbelievable," offensive tackle Jeff Baca said.
It makes the game plan simple in Baca's eyes.
"The first thing we have to do is establish the run," he said.
OK, fine. The "how" remains to be seen.
Stanford's defensive numbers are a bit skewed, as the sixth-ranked Cardinal has played lightweights San Jose State and Duke — though San Jose State gained 202 yards rushing against UCLA.
But the Stanford did limit Arizona to 51 yards rushing.
The Bruins are ranked 28th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 214 yards a game. UCLA is a "power team," according to Coach Rick Neuheisel. That theory will be tested.
"They have a lot experience and a lot of hard-hitting, aggressive players," UCLA offensive tackle Mike Harris said. "It's going to be a fistfight, but we've got the players on this team to go in and pull off an upset."
Stanford's defense is predicated on "getting to the quarterback and stopping the run," Cardinal Coach David Show said.
Even without linebacker Shayne Skov, who is out for the season because of a knee injury, the Cardinal remains formidable. Stanford is ranked No. 1 nationally in tackles for a loss (10.33) and second in sacks (4.33).
"They have great ends who can collapse the pocket and they have relentless counter moves," Neuheisel said. "It looks like a party at the quarterback."
UCLA had 152 yards rushing in a 35-0 loss to Stanford last season. No one on UCLA's current starting line played in that game — Baca was ineligible, center Kai Maiava was injured, Harris and guards Chris Ward and Greg Capella didn't get off the bench.
"I know [Stanford defensive line coach] Randy Hart; we coached together at Ohio State," Bruins offensive line coach Bob Palcic said. "They are really sound with their technique and they are very physical. Those kids play like a Randy Hart defensive line."
Cornerback Sheldon Price (sprained knee) and safety Dalton Hilliard (sprained shoulder) were not in pads Wednesday and appear unlikely to play.
Neuheisel said, "We'll have to see," about the two.
Safety Alex Mascarenas (concussion), who has played nickel back, was not at practice. He is also the holder for field goals and extra points. Mascarenas was injured when he collided with wide receiver Josh Smith on Tuesday. Mascarenas also suffered a concussion in August.
Andrew Abbott, who sat out last week's game because of a concussion, would probably start in Price's place. Taylor Embree has been holding for kicks.
Linebacker Glenn Love, who hobbled off the field Tuesday, did little in practice on Wednesday.
F-back Anthony Barr has a damaged meniscus in his knee.
"We're not positive of the answer yet, but it looks as if he may have to have surgery," Neuheisel said.
Barr was injured in UCLA's 27-19 victory over Oregon State on Saturday.
Jordon James has shared the F-back spot with Barr this season. Wide receiver Ricky Marvray and tight end Joseph Fauria can also play the position.