UCLA (3-8, 3-5) vs. Stanford (6-4, 4-3)
Saturday, noon, Rose Bowl. TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 570, 97.3.
Stanford tailback Bryce Love vs. the UCLA run defense. The Bruins jammed their interior defense with extra players last week against USC in an effort to stop the run and it paid off handsomely. The Trojans were held to 112 rushing yards and had to try to win the game behind a freshman quarterback. Expect a similar approach this week against a Stanford run game that hasn’t been nearly as dangerous as anticipated, ranking next-to-last in the Pac-12 Conference with 108.2 yards per game. Love was touted as a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate but has averaged only 72.5 yards in the eight games he’s played after being hampered by injuries.
UCLA (380.3 ypg/23 ppg): The Bruins’ offense has been much better recently, generating an average of 419.3 yards over the last seven games. Graduate transfer quarterback Wilton Speight has blossomed late in his final college season, guiding the team to a come-from-behind victory over USC last weekend.
Stanford (394.6 ypg/28.3 ppg): K.J. Costello has quietly had one of the best seasons of any Pac-12 quarterback, completing 67.3% of his passes for 285.4 yards per game and 23 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside could torment UCLA once more after making the game-winning touchdown catch at the Rose Bowl in 2016.
UCLA (442.6 ypg/32.7 ppg): The Bruins aren’t going to win any defensive awards this season, but they had a memorable fourth quarter against the Trojans in which they stopped every drive. Cornerback Darnay Holmes made an interception and Krys Barnes came up with a fourth-down pass breakup that helped UCLA hold on for the victory.
Stanford (410.7 ypg/23 ppg): The Cardinal have been particularly susceptible to the pass, allowing opponents to complete 63% of their passes while collecting 263.3 yards per game through the air. That ranks 10th in the Pac-12, unusual territory for a defense that’s traditionally known for being far more stout.
Special teams breakdowns have followed UCLA late into the season, with a hole in the middle of the line leading to a blocked punt last week and the punt-coverage team yielding a first down on a fake punt even though the Bruins anticipated that the Trojans were going to try some trickery. Those mistakes resulted in two USC touchdowns.
Caleb Wilson’s 71 receiving yards per game lead all Football Bowl Subdivision tight ends and rate sixth among all players in the Pac-12. Wilson’s total of 781 receiving yards also leads all FBS tight ends.
This game could mark the return of UCLA tailback Kazmeir Allen and receiver Kyle Philips from injuries that have sidelined them for lengthy stretches. Allen has not played since the game against Utah on Oct. 26, and Philips has been out since the game against Colorado on Sept. 28. Bruins cornerback Nate Meadors was wearing a yellow jersey in practice this week to denote he was recovering from an unspecified injury.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch