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Spaulding Roundup: Stanford Rewind & Other Notes On UCLA’s "Big Game"

Let's start the Humpday by keeping the focus on Stanford. Yesterday we shared some initial notes on Cardinal by going over the key highlights of their offensive and defensive personnel heading into this season. Today let's delve into what took place in their first game against Sacramento State .

Not sure how many of you got to watch the game. The score wasn't close as the Trees rolled to a 52-17 blowout. The highlights not surprisingly are pretty spectacular from the Stanford POV (with homer calls from the annoying Barry McAffery):

It was their first game without Toby Gerhart. However, on paper they didn't seem to miss him all that much against a cupcake opponent piling up 212 yards and 3 TDs through deployment of 5 RBs.  Andrew Luck got off to a red hot start by finishing 17 of his 23 pass attempts for 316 yards. He did most of his work when he went 14-for-18 for 301 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. So you can imagine the pressure that is going to be on Rahim Moore, Tony Dye, Aaron Hester, and Sheldon Price heading into Saturday.

As for the Stanford defense, they weren't tested at all by a Sacramento State team which was led none other than the Law Firm. The former Bruin QB - McLeod Bethel-Thompson - was limited to 69 passing yards by the Stanford secondary, which was proven to be a leaky unit last season. Yet despite their extremely impressive performance, it is unclear how much we can glean from one game. If people need a reminder they can look back to last season when the season looked over for the Oregon Ducks after an unimpressive outing against Boise State, while UCLA was sitting pretty with a 3-0 start heading into the bye week.  More on the Trees after jump.

To get an idea of what the Trees are thinking I looked for their version of Ralph Irvin online. Found him here as Bruce Macgowan of put together this reel of interviews featuring Jim Harbaugh, Doug Baldwin (WR who had an impressive outing in the season opener), and Andrew Luck:

Needless to say all of those guys sound classy and polished. In all seriousness, we made fun of the tradmed hyping of Jim Harbaugh yesterday. The reality though is that I find Harbaugh to be a solid coach, who at least when it comes to UCLA has generally been gracious towards the Bruins. He is also being savvy enough to make sure he hasn't given Bruins any kind of bulletin material at all heading into this game week. In addition to praise he gave to the Bruins in video above, he mentioned the following to the local reporters yesterday:

[Daniel Thomas] is "one of the best in the country," Harbaugh said. "Watching the game, I thought the better team was UCLA, but Daniel Thomas is a heck of a football player."

Not sure whether Harbaugh means that but there you have it. Harbaugh also talked about the chess matches that will take place between the coaching staff of two programs. We have been openly wondering about exactly what Chuck Bullough is going to do after getting bulldozed by Harbaugh's jumbo package last season. Last year, Bullough didn't show much adjustments with his base 4-3 defense when the Trees were lining up with extra linemen.

The game plan for Stanford might get a little more diverse this season as Harbaugh might decide to mix it up with Luck's efficiency and his stable of RBs. It will be imperative for Bullough to make adjustments on the fly. More importantly, not only will he need to be able to read and react but he will also have to throw in wrinkles and attack Stanford to dictate tempo. Can Bullough get that done? Honestly, don't know the answer.

Meanwhile, on the other hand CRN talked yesterday about Vic Fangio's 3-4 defense. On Saturday Stanford apparently didn't show much of that as they reportedly stayed mostly their nickel package. Ted Miller in one of his rare posts offering a little analysis looked into Stanford's new 3-4 defense few weeks ago:

In fact, Stanford, which brought in veteran NFL coach Vic Fangio to coordinate the transition, is a good test case for making the switch because its transformation is pure: two defensive ends in 2009 are now outside linebackers heading into 2010. You want hybrids? We give you Thomas Keiser and Chase Thomas. They've played both positions. And will play both this year as the Cardinal continues to use some 4-3 elements with Thomas and Keiser putting their hands on the ground.

Thomas was forced into action as a redshirt freshman last year when Erik Lorig got hurt and made eight starts. He finished with seven tackles for a loss and four sacks. Keiser, a junior, had 15 tackles for a loss and nine sacks. He had six sacks as a redshirt freshman.

Thomas, at 6-foot-4, 239 pounds, will play the "Sam" strongside linebacker position, while Keiser will be the rush linebacker, which is more "end-like." Sophomore Shayne Skov and Owen Marecic will be the inside linebackers, while all three defensive linemen -- Matt Masifilo, Sione Fua (the nose) and Brian Bulcke -- are upperclassmen who've played defensive tackle their entire careers.

It will be interesting to see how Stanford's converted LBs handle pass coverage assignment against the Bruins. Sure hope our WRs will come out with their hair on fire after what took place in Manhattan. The question mark around is still at the QB position. Kevin Prince got a lot of "work" in yesterday but he also missed part of practice due to sore shoulder.  Prince is not going to lose his starting position overnight. However, if he wants to cement his status as a starter, he needs to do everything he can to work with his offense to improve on timing issues that not surprisingly flared up in his first game.

Speaking of nagging injury issues, it's not just UCLA that is banged up coming into this matchup:

--WR Chris Owusu did not play against Sacramento State because of an undisclosed injury. Coach Jim Harbaugh said he expects Owusu to play against UCLA on Sept. 11, although Harbaugh has not been forthcoming about players' availability for games.

--ILB Shayne Skov did not play against Sacramento State because of an undisclosed injury. The sophomore is the cornerstone of the defense, and if he cannot play against UCLA it will be a significant blow. Harbaugh said he expects Skov to play against UCLA, but Harbaugh's proclamations about players' availability have not been reliable.

--Redshirt freshman Levin Toilolo started at tight end in the opener, but he injured his knee early in the game and did not return. His status for the UCLA game is uncertain.

--Starting TB Jeremy Stewart injured his ankle during the game against Sacramento State. He is expected to play against UCLA, but it is not a certainty.

Well Levin Toilolo is now out for the season. As for the other guys the updates from Stanford remain unclear.

As for the Bruins, we are going to get Mike Harris back for this game. The right tackle is anxious for his return:

"It was an odd experience watching my team on TV when I should have been there," Harris said. "I never want that to happen again and I'm really excited to be able to help my team."

Harris is now listed at the number 2 slot in the latest depth chart behind Micah Kia. Expect him to be part of Coach Palcic's regular rotation on Saturday. It is going to be a very interesting game from our OL, which not only generated a productive running game but all did a pretty good job of providing pass protection for Kevin Prince against Kansas State. However, KSU's DL was somewhat suspect (at least heading into this season). So we will have to see how we handle the Stanford defense which will certainly come out of its vanilla look it purportedly showed against Sacramento State.  As Harbaugh said above this is going to be a "big game" ... for everyone.