As UCLA gets ready to play its second road game of the season it the dynamics feels pretty much the same (at least to me) heading into the first road game in Tennessee. The Friday before the Tennessee game I wrote how the pressure was really on Tennessee (and specifically on Lane Kiffin) to win that game. Well in many ways Jim Harbaugh and his Stanford Cardinal are going to face similar pressure heading into this game. This is a huge game for Stanford. Following this game 3 of their next 5 matchups are on the road including dates with U$C* on the road and Oregon at home. If they want to put themselves in a position for a good bowl game in Harbaugh's third year in Palo Alto this is a game in which (from their POV) they must hold serve.
Also, just like the Tennessee game they are going to have the revenge factor on their side. So it's not a surprise that heading into tomorrow's matchup majority of the pundits are expecting Cardinal to beat Bruins. That means our guys should go into this matchup with the mindset of having nothing to lose and taking advantage of an opportunity in which they would be able to move our program another step by giving the same kind of effort, intensity and heart they showed in the Volunteer state.
Let's go through the predictions from pundits around the country and you will get the sense what I am talking about. Ted Miller from ESPN writes:
Stanford 21, UCLA 17: UCLA has a strong defense and a middling offense. The guess here is Stanford's balanced offense and middling defense will have enough -- playing at home -- to nip the Bruins.
What will happen: It may be the Pac-10, but defenses and special teams will rule the day in a low-scoring, hard-hitting chess match. The Bruin defense and PK Kai Forbath will the team close for 60 minutes, but an inability to get in the end zone will be its downfall. Gerhart will manufacture 85 yards and the go-ahead touchdown on the ground.
CFN Prediction: Stanford 24 … UCLA 20 ... Line: Stanford -6
Also, (serving this up purely for informational purposes) from Sports Book Betting Promotions:
UCLA vs Stanford College Football Predictions & Sports Odds - UCLA's defense is definitely good, but Toby Gerhart is quality enough to break them down. Should be a tight game, but I see Stanford pulling it out.
We already noted how SportsNetwork (on SBN) is predicting a 10 point victory for the Cardinal. So you get the picture. Bruins are shaping up to be almost consensus underdogs heading into what could be our biggest Pac-10 game since 2001. And as mentioned above that's not the only similarity with the Tennessee game.
No doubt Stanford will be thinking about what went down at the Rose Bowl last year:
Nearly a year later, the Cardinal will want their revenge.
"Time is on our side," Bruins redshirt senior tight end Logan Paulsen said. "That was a whole year away. A lot of things have happened from that time until now. Obviously, they're going to use that play as motivation for their guys, and they should. It was a tough loss. I know we would be upset about it."
If Paulsen sounds like a coach-in-training, it's because his own coaches have not let the Bruins dwell on the past.
Chow was his classic self when asked about last year:
"Obviously it was a nice win, and I don't want to demean that," UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. "But this is another year, another time. We never look beyond the next game, we never look back to far. This is coach-speak, I know. But it's the truth. We don't talk about anything else."
I think the dynamic around this game would have been a little different if we had a healthy Kevin Prince. Then we would be looking at a situation in which coaches might have opened up the offense a little more against Kansas State, and we would be heading into this game with a more balanced team. However, as we said couple of weeks ago this is not the year for Bruin fans to get paranoid and get into the woe is us routine. Moreover, we have a number of factors working in our favor. Our OL is showing signs of continuity. Our running game has shown sings of life. We have a great kicking game and bunch of warriors on defense.
As badly as I want UCLA to win tomorrow afternoon, more importantly I want our guys to come out focused, poised and ready to battle for the entire
40 60 mins, giving us the best chance to win. Given what they have gone though in last four years, I like the chances of cowboying up and bring home a huge win. Chows words certainly give me a sense of calm assurance. It certainly feels like the pressure is going to be on them to win and hold serve. We need to go out there and play with the same determination our guys showed in Tennessee. I like where our team is heading into tomorrow's game.