According to Bill Connelly, Stanford had a 76% chance of beating San Diego State last week. Well, we all know that didn’t happen, due in large part to a poor performance by quarterback Keller Chryst. Also noted by Connelly is that before the season started, Stanford actually had slightly better odds against the Bruins, with a 78% win probability. With odds out the window at this point, I really think both teams are going to show up looking a lot different on Saturday. I don’t expect to see Stanford’s offense struggle nearly as much, especially with the UCLA defense ranking near the bottom of all FBS schools; UCLA is an abysmal 122 out of 129. The Bruin offense has put up a lot of points, but a disastrous showing by he defense has nearly negated all efforts by the offense to pick up the slack. Let’s look at the defense that will be vying to shut down Rosen and his ten best friends.
Stanford operates on a traditional 3-4 defense, and the entire line is loaded with juniors and seniors. Up front, Harrison Phillips leads the team with 26 total tackles, with one tackle for loss and one sack. Eric Cotton and Dylan Jackson will also be up front. They are missing defensive end Solomon Thomas, who is now with the 49ers, but what this line lacks in Thomas’s skill they make up for in experience. If the line can hold, this creates a perfect situation for the rest of the defense. Last year, Stanford wasn’t all that great up front, but they were able to occupy blockers just enough to allow the backs and secondary to flourish.
Stanford has four talented seniors that potentially start at the linebacker position, all of which had decent to great statistics in 2016. Inside linebacker Bobby Okereke played in all 12 games last year, and amassed 39 tackles. He has already recorded 17 in three games this year, and with Jordan Perez’s ten, the inside had definitely been holding it’s own. On the outside, Peter Kalambayi is already a standout, with a team-high five solo tackles, one sack and one pass breakup vs. Rice, and 14 recorded tackled in total. He is on the Butkus Award watch list and also a team captain.
Here is another unit that is stacked with upperclassmen that are really going to disrupt our receivers downfield. Junior Justin Reid already has numerous accolades that put him on the Bednarik Award and Jim Thorpe Award watch lists. He had three tackles (one for loss) vs. Rice, seven tackles (four solo) and one interception at USC, and six tackles (all solo) at San Diego State. Brandon Simmons has already added ten of his own, and with the contributions of Ben Edwards, this unit is probably going to pick this Saturday to cement their places in Stanford football history. But it doesn’t stop there. Junior corner Quenton Meeks is on his own watch lists, including the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Jim Thorpe Award. He recorded six tackles (five solo) at USC, and seven tackles (three solo) at San Diego State. The secondary is going to make it tough for the likes of Darren Andrews and company.
We’ve seen it before. A team struggles, then plays UCLA and puts together their season highlight reel. I always hope this doesn’t happen, but our offense definitely has their work cut out for them. We’ve averaged more points per game for sure, but as I stated before, never take a weak showing by Stanford for granted. Both teams have something to prove this weekend and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we had our lowest point total of the season thus far.