Stanford needs a win Saturday to guarantee a spot in the Pac-12 championship… (Don Ryan / Associated Press )
The last time UCLA and Stanford played when both were nationally ranked was 2001, when the No. 20 Cardinal beat the No. 24 Bruins, 38-28. Current UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley was 8 years old. UCLA is ranked 15th and Stanford 11th heading into Saturday's game at the Rose Bowl. Staff writer Chris Foster examines the game's matchups and story lines:
Coming up roses
This game has Pac-12 Conference championship game implications for both teams, and might be a steppingstone to the Rose Bowl.
UCLA is already in the Pac-12 title game as the South Division representative; Stanford needs a win to get there for sure. If UCLA defeats Stanford and Oregon defeats Oregon State, Oregon would play host to UCLA for the Pac-12 championship on Nov. 30.
If Stanford wins, it would host UCLA in a rematch. If UCLA wins and Oregon State wins, the Bruins would host Stanford in a rematch.
Stanford is probably two plays from being in the national title picture. There was a false-start penalty on a punt late in a loss to Washington and a controversial no-touchdown ruling in South Bend against Notre Dame.
Stanford Coach David Shaw avoids discussing what-might-have-beens.
"All those things are in the hands of computers and voters," Shaw said. "I was in a long line of people who argued with computers a year ago. You can't win an argument with a computer. We have to concentrate on what happens on the field."
A player from each team is chasing a record established by former Stanford running back Darrin Nelson.
Stanford's Stepfan Taylor needs 177 yards to break Nelson's school career rushing record of 4,169 yards.
Nelson, who played for the Cardinal from 1977 to '81, is also fifth on the Pac-12 career rushing list. UCLA's Johnathan Franklin needs 60 yards to pass him.
A big game by either back would be a huge boost to their team.
Taylor can take the pressure off quarterback Kevin Hogan, a redshirt freshman who is making his third career start. Franklin can do the same for Hundley, who faces a formidable Stanford defense that ranks second nationally in sacks.
"They are a little more exotic rushing the passer than you would typically see at this level," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. "This is absolutely the best front seven we have played."
Wall of trees
The Cardinal is second nationally against the run, giving up 71.2 yards rushing a game.
"They are physical and extremely disciplined," Mora said. "They play with their hands and don't let blockers get into them. They violently disengage, run to the ball and tackle well. It's hard to get big runs on them."
Mora, perhaps sensing that he may have wandered too far down the Lou Holtz path in selling the opponent, also said, "We're a physical team too. We're not bad on offense either."
Derek Mason, Stanford's defensive coordinator, accomplished something few have done: He befuddled Oregon's offense.
Stanford gave up 405 yards — 148 below Oregon's average — and held the Ducks to two touchdowns in a 17-14 victory last week.
Now he gets a crack at UCLA's version of the spread offense. The Bruins are 16th nationally in yards (488.6) and 16th in points (37.7).
"Derek is great at recognizing the other team's talent and putting our guys in position to play great team defense," Shaw said. "Our players realize that each week it could be some else's turn to shine."
The Hangover III
Both teams are coming off significant victories.
Stanford defeated Oregon, then the No. 1 team in the nation.
UCLA defeated USC, its No. 1 nemesis.
Logic holds that the UCLA game was more personal, ergo more lingering.
Logic also holds that Stanford needs this game more because UCLA is already in the Pac-12 title game.
Then again, if logic mattered both teams might have lost last week.