There have been few games like this for UCLA in the last decade. The ninth-ranked Bruins face No. 13 Stanford in Palo Alto. Staff writer Chris Foster examines the story lines.
UCLA's Brett Hundley had 410 yards passing against California last week, and it wasn't close to being his best overall performance.
The Bears focused on taking away UCLA's running game, holding the Bruins to 78 yards. So Hundley found another way. Bruins running backs caught seven swing passes for 60 yards.
"Everybody hates my little swing passes," said offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. "I classify those as runs. I asked [onetime Colorado State coach] Sonny Lubick way back when, 'Man, you never throw the football.' He said, 'Yeah I do. I throw it 30-40 times a game, every time the quarterback turns around and throws it back to that tailback on a sweep.' It's the same type of thought."
Utah had success with short passes in a 27-21 victory over Stanford last week.
Stanford's Kevin Hogan doesn't get the catwalk treatment by the media. He just wins.
Hogan started the last five games of last season, winning all five, including a 20-14 victory over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. He won the first five games this season too, but had two incomplete passes with Stanford at the Utah six-yard line in the last minute.
"He missed a couple throws," said Cardinal Coach David Shaw. "At the same time, he made unbelievable throws to get us back to where we had a chance to win the game."
The biggest was a 45-yard completion to Ty Montgomery to set up a touchdown that pulled Stanford to within 27-21.
Montgomery gives the Cardinal the type of deep threat that it has lacked in past seasons. He has 31 receptions for 514 yards and five touchdowns. He has also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
You can't deal with Stanford unless you can push when it comes to shove.
The Cardinal has built success by being physical. UCLA has made tremendous weight gains in this area. This could be a litmus test.
The Bruins start first-year freshmen side by side at guard and tackle, Alex Redmond and Caleb Benenoch. They use three freshmen in the defensive line rotation: Eddie Vanderdoes, Kylie Fitts and Kenny Clark. Those players lack experience, not strength.
Stanford's defensive front is beat up. The Cardinal will be without defensive end Henry Anderson and defensive tackle Ikenna Nwafor. Defensive end Ben Gardner and defensive tackle David Parry are playing with injuries.
Both Stanford's Jordan Williamson and UCLA's Ka'imi Fairbairn have dealt with disappointment.
Williamson missed a 35-yard field-goal attempt that would have won the 2012 Fiesta Bowl. Fairbairn missed a 52-yard attempt in the rain that would have tied the Pac-12 title game against Stanford last December.
Williams did self-imposed penance, sporting a Fiesta Bowl cap last season. He made a 37-yarder to beat Oregon in overtime.
Fairbairn finishes most practices with a 52-yard attempt.
Kyle Whittingham can best handicap this game. His Utah team took down Stanford last week and nearly beat UCLA the previous week, losing, 34-27.
So, Kyle, as George Thorogood once sang, who do you love?
"It should be a great matchup," Whittingham said. "Both teams are loaded with talent. Both teams are very balanced as far as run and pass on offense and are stingy on defense. Both teams are sound on special teams."
So who do you love?
"I couldn't pick a winner in this one," Whittingham said.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times