Congratulations to Jim Peterson from Kalispell, Montana, the winner of last week’s Stanford Daily Football Predictions Challenge, presented by Chef Chu’s.
No. 7 Stanford (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12) at UCLA (2-1, 0-0 Pac-12)
Vihan Lakshman: Stanford 34, UCLA 20
UCLA underwent a makeover this summer — shifting to a pro-style offense featuring more tight ends and heavier bodies (sound familiar?) and a 4-3, run-stuffing defensive scheme — that should make this matchup brutally physical, but can the Bruins finish the job? After allowing just 25 yards on the ground to BYU last week, UCLA’s stalwart defensive front led by Eddie Vanderdoes and Takkarist McKinley will make life difficult for Stanford by limiting the Cardinal’s bread-and-butter running attack. However, Christian McCaffrey and the rest of the offense have proven they can do damage through the air, and this will be the first game where we see quarterback Ryan Burns truly show off his arm.
On the defensive side, Stanford’s secondary will continue their breakout campaign and take advantage of quarterback Josh Rosen’s tendency to force the ball in big games. I see this contest as one of those days where Plan A won’t necessarily pan out for Stanford as the Cardinal struggle early, but David Shaw’s group has plenty of talent offensively and looks to be rock solid on the other side with return of junior defensive lineman Harrison Phillips to weather the storm and find a way to put up points late in the second half to pull away.
Andrew Mather: Stanford 31, UCLA 13
Even if it isn’t necessarily apparent in the team’s results, I still think Jim Mora is taking UCLA in a good direction. However, the bottom line is Stanford has looked really solid through two games, and all indicators are that the balance of power in this recently lopsided series is still pretty asymmetric. The Bruins have a number of quality pieces, but I just don’t think they’re a complete enough team to hang with the Cardinal for an entire game. For every Eddie Vanderdoes and Josh Rosen that the team has, it seems to have several other starters that really struggle with consistency — hence why UCLA can allow 175 rush yards against middling UNLV, only to hold BYU to 17 one week later.
Stanford, by contrast, really hasn’t shown a lot of weaknesses so far this season, even against opponents that could have potentially represented challenges to them. Other than Ryan Burns, whom it could at least be argued needs to play more snaps before he totally proves himself, the Cardinal have looked surprisingly impressive across the board, especially given their youth at a number of critical position groups. It’s not a forgone conclusion that this consistency will continue in Pasadena — UCLA is probably the strongest opponent Stanford has faced thus far — but unless the Bruins play to the very top of their potential I just don’t see how they could break up David Shaw’s game plan enough to come away with the upset. McCaffrey leads Stanford to another handy win in the Rose Bowl.
Do-Hyoung Park: Stanford 31, UCLA 20
I’m still not sold on Josh Rosen. He has all the tools and all the talent in the world, but he hasn’t shown the consistency and the big-game ability that is demanded of an elite quarterback. Consider his three interceptions against Texas A&M to open this season. Or when he completed just over 50 percent of his passes against Stanford, Utah and USC last season. Or when he threw two interceptions against a mediocre Nebraska team that upset UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl last year. The bottom line is that he hasn’t shown the ability to rise to the occasion when the pressure’s on against good opponents, and there’s been no indication that this meeting will be any different, especially against a Stanford secondary that looks to have improved dramatically since these two teams met at Stanford Stadium last season.
UCLA will be forced to throw the ball often because I don’t expect its inexperienced offensive line to do much against a Harrison Phillips-bolstered Stanford defensive line, and we all know what happens when an offense gets too one-dimensional against Stanford. I actually think the Bruins’ 4-3 front will hold up well against the Stanford O-line and Christian McCaffrey, but in the end, a strong receiving game from McCaffrey and a big road debut from Ryan Burns are supported by a two-touchdown game from Bryce Love (who feasts while UCLA overcommits to No. 5 to make sure McCaffrey doesn’t rush for 243 yards on them again) as Stanford pulls away late.
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