What's better than 9-2?
The U.C.L.A. Bruins (#17, 9-2) have a chance to hit that mark this afternoon when they face the Stanford Cardinal (#8, 9-2). This is Senior Day for the Bruins and the final Pac-12 regular season game for both teams, and there will be no rain this week. Kickoff is set for 3:35 Pacific, and the game will be on Fox. Hello, Gus!
Both teams have an awful lot riding on this game today. U.C.L.A. can maintain the momentum of a 5 game win streak and position itself for a shot at the Rose Bowl with a win. Stanford can assure itself a rematch with the Bruins back at the Farm next Friday in the Pac-12 Title game with a win. Both the Bruins and the Cardinal are coming off big emotional wins last week so it will be interesting to see if either team shows any hangover effects or if they both come out ready to play. Despite scenarios where a loss could actually be of benefit to both teams, don't look for either team to take its foot off the gas today. Football is really very simple...winning is good; losing is bad.
On offense, the Bruins will be facing a tough Stanford defense that locked up the mighty (Oregon) Ducks last week. The Bruins struggled in the two games this year that bottled up their rushing attack, so Johnathan Franklin and Jordon James and the O Line will need to have a big effort today. If they can do that, the passing game should really open up against a Stanford secondary which has shown some vulnerability this year.
On the other side of the ball, the Bruins defense will face a balanced Stanford attack which has taken off since QB Kevin Hogan stepped in midseason. He will be looking primarily for his two big TE's so the Bruin secondary needs to be prepared for them. But the heart of the Stanford offense is still RB Stepfan Taylor and a big offensive line, and the Bruin front 7 will need to shut that down to contain the Cardinal offense.
Stanford is led by Coach David Shaw who is in his second year after taking over for John Harbaugh and the Cardinal has yet to seen the downturn some expected. Shaw has been criticized some for being too conservative, but when you take the field with more talent and better fundamentals than virtually all of your opponents, you can get away with playing things close to the vest. This Stanford team we'll see today is the best opponent we will have faced so far this season, and it will provide a good benchmark to see how far our Bruin program has come this year.
Finally: Huge love and appreciation and a heartfelt 8-Clap for Kevin Prince, Joseph Fauria, Jerry Johnson, Richard Brehaut, Jeff Locke, Dalton Hilliard, Aaron Hester, Sheldon Price, Johnathan Franklin, Andrew Abbott, David Allen, Damien Holmes, Ryan Medina, Kevin McDermott, Datone Jones, Jeff Baca, Brett Downey, & Donovan Carter. [edit: RS JR Todd Golper will also be honored, as he is graduating and leaving the program]. Those are our Bruin seniors playing their last regular season game at the Rose Bowl today. But if the Bruins play things just right, they could still have TWO more games at the Rose Bowl this year.
Well, actually one of those games would be happen early next year. And that's a prospect that is worth playing for.