UCLA's always colorful inside linebacker Reggie Carter isn't so sure his Bruins want your love. Sure, they've pushed three opponents around. Sure, they will equal their 2008 win total with their next victory.
Just don't rank them, said Carter.
"No! Leave me at the bottom of the barrel," he said. "We've seen what happens to teams up in the rankings. Cal goes up in the rankings and what happened? They lost. They put Washington in the Top 25? They lost. I think everybody feeds you all that candy and ice cream and you get excited and you lose focus. So leave me unranked. Just tell me we're a terrible team. Don't give us any respect. Let us earn it. I don't want guys to get excited and happy -- 'Oh, yeah, we're ranked!' As soon as you lose, you'll be unranked. So let's not be ranked. Let's just try to win every week."
Of course, Carter also wrote a few amusing sonnets for reporters about the magical wonderfulness of Tennessee before the Bruins defense throttled the Volunteers, so it's likely that Carter was just doing what he normally does: Answering a reporter's question with a twinkle in his eye.
Well I have no idea what is going through Reggie's mind. However, I have to think Carter is well aware how UCLA football in recent years have always experienced a let down, when they started getting attention and respect early in the season from around the country. No doubt there is a little gamesmanship going on in the comments he and his coaches are making to the press. It's kind of silly to assume that Carter actually is ok with UCLA having a program that is not ranked week to week (I know and he knows we are rebuilding but our goal is to have a program that will be ranked every week from wire to wire during football seasons). Still at the same time the message he is sending as the leader of this football team should resonate with the youngsters who are sprinkled into the lineups on both sides of the field.
Moreover, Stanford is a team, which at this least at this snap shot of time deserves the respect it is getting from UCLA. From the game preview at Sports Network (On SBN):
Stanford is scoring 33.0 ppg and 419.5 total ypg this season. proof that the offense has been quite potent through four outings. The ground attack has been sensational, accounting for 233.8 ypg on 5.9 ypc. Toby Gerhart doesn't receive much national attention, but it is hard to ignore the numbers posted by the hard-charging tailback thus far. Gerhart has rushed for 516 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 5.7 ypc. Andrew Luck is the team's starting quarterback, and he is second in rushing with 136 yards. Luck has completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 742 yards and four touchdowns with only two interceptions. As for the receivers, Ryan Whalen has made 16 catches for 260 yards and two touchdowns, while Chris Owusu has recorded 13 grabs for 210 yards and two scores. Stanford racked up 424 yards en route to 34 points scored. The Cardinal had three offensive touchdowns, including a 60-yard gallop by Gerhart, who finished with a career-high 200 yards on the ground.
Opponents are scoring 17.0 ppg against Stanford, which is allowing 331.2 total ypg. The Cardinal have been tough against the run, yielding a mere 3.5 yards per attempt. As for the pass defense, there is some room for improvement as opposing quarterbacks are throwing for 212.2 ypg against Stanford. While the team has registered only five takeaways in four games, there have been 10 sacks notched by the defense. Clinton Snyder leads the squad with 30 tackles, and Thomas Keiser has seven TFLs, including four sacks. The fact that Stanford was able to hold Washington to 14 points last weekend was certainly impressive, and a closer look reveals that only one of the two Huskies' touchdowns was scored by the team's offense. Stanford yielded just 290 yards, as the defense continued its outstanding play.
The home team gets the nod in this tilt, as Stanford will find a away to get past UCLA. Expect Gerhart to carry the load as usual and add to his already impressive stats.
They went on to predict a 10 point (34-24) victory for the Cardinal at home. I am sure the coaches and players will take note of predictions like that and be full aware that they will be the underdogs on Saturday. Couple of more factors to be concerned about heading into Saturday.How are we going to contain Chris Owusu? From the LA Times:
"We've seen every touchdown return five times," said Jeff Locke, who kicks off for UCLA. "So we've seen what not to do."
That challenge comes at a time when Gansz is unhappy with UCLA's kickoff coverage. Every other area of the Bruins' special teams has been solid, but they gave up 33.8 yards a return against Kansas State in their last game.
Making the point, though, is easy this week.
"All you got to do is put the tape on" of Owusu, Gansz said. "But as much as it is about him, it's about the 10 other guys blocking for him."
The Gansz solution?
"You got to change it up, give him different things, different looks," he said. "That's all I'm going to say about it."
Keep in mind the kid averages 59.2 yards (!!!!) per return. He has housed it 3 times (out of 6 returns) going for 91 yards (Washington), 94 yards (San Jose State) and 84 yards (Washington State). That is not just great, that sounds like he is as freakish as Notre Dame's Rocket was back in the day. If you want to read more on Owusu and get sick in the stomach, you can read up the profile DN's Jon Gold wrote up on him here. Not sure I have anything to add at this point beyond what we have already said this week and comments from Gansz.
Secondly, yes everyone is still talking about what are we going to get out Craft. Foster lays it out in the LA Times:
A trip down memory lane with UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft, who will face Stanford in Palo Alto on Saturday:
The last time Craft started a road game, he produced big -- for Arizona State. Interception returns of 38, 45, 100 yards by the Sun Devils were the longest scoring plays Craft "created" during the 2008 season.
The last time Craft faced Stanford, he took the Bruins on an 87-yard drive in the last two minutes, finishing with a game-winning touchdown pass.
That's the Craft UCLA hopes it is getting Saturday.
"Funny, it feels like last season was a long time ago, in the sense of games and our record," the soft-spoken Craft says. "But out on the field, it feels like it never went away."
Well, the optimist side of me tells me that Craft actually played a decent game against Kansas State and our team numbers would have looked much better if not for the sloppiness in team penalties that plagued us throughout the game. I still think the complexion of that game would have been different if that TD pass to Moya wasn't called back. Then the realistic side of me reminds me of Craft's horrible long throws and how uncomfortable he looked at times durng that dreadful third quarter.
Well I just hope the entire team steps up to help him out. That means if we can get solid play from our special teams, defense, and running game, all Craft will need to do is to make sure he is playing within his athletic abilities and giving us the best chance to win.
For more on tonight's game make sure to tune into tonight's (6 pm PST) inaugural BN podcast. I hear ryebreadaz and ucla13_usc9 have a full plate in store for us. They are going to go over all the key factors in play for UCLA and have s. andrew over who has already given us some great perspectives from the Stanford side. Should be fun.