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Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruins Football at Stanford Cardinal

Can UCLA do a better job against the pass? Who will commit more critical penalties tonight? After facing three straight well-below-average defenses, can UCLA keep the offensive momentum going against a middle-of-the-road Cardinal defense?

NCAA Football: Oregon State at UCLA Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The UCLA Bruins football team (1-5, 1-2 Pac-12) travels to Palo Alto for a nationally televised Thursday night game against the Stanford Cardinal. Kickoff is at 6 pm PT tomorrow night and the game will be shown on ESPN.

Although the Cardinal are having a bit of a down year by their standards, sitting at 3-3 with a 2-2 record in conference, Stanford has won two straight games, while UCLA has lost two straight, after the miraculous comeback win over Wazzu. Further, the Cardinal are riding high after upsetting Washington at home last weekend, 23-13, while the Bruins had a bye to lick their wounds. Will the Bruins benefit with an extra week to prepare for Stanford? Time will tell and we should have our answers tonight.

Oh, also, not that we needed reminding, but UCLA football has not prevailed against Stanford since Rick Neuheisel was coach in 2008. The Bruins have lost eleven straight games to the Cardinal. Maybe Jerry Neuheisel should take over for Chip Kelly tonight.

I saw the movie “Joker” last Friday night. It was dark, disturbing, and nihilistic. Kind of like the hopelessness I have been feeling about the Bruins’ football program as the losses mount. The team is unwatchable. Defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro still has a job. And star receiver Theo Howard has decided to transfer out of the program. How can anyone have a positive outlook on the program at this point? Less than 5% of Bruins fans feel like the program is headed in the right direction. What I want to know is: who are these 5%?

Like “Joker,” this week’s song is dark and nihilistic, with one lyric that particularly stands out to me, which I’ll quote after the song. Be careful when you listen to this tune, as it is definitely not suitable for audible listening at work. If you are triggered by profanity (multiple F-bombs), you might want to skip it. This week’s musical selection is Aenima by Tool:

The lyric that stood out to me, and the reason I picked this song this week, as as follows:

“Some say the end is near.

Some say we’ll see Armageddon soon.

I certainly hope we will.

I sure could use a vacation from this.”

As it pertains to the current status of UCLA football, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Onto the guesses . . .

UCLA’s passing defense is second to last in the FBS division of college football, allowing 340.7 yards per game through the air. That is not a surprise to anyone who has closely, or even casually, followed UCLA football this season. UCLA routinely gives up first downs on third and long and also gives opposing receivers huge cushions. Opposing quarterbacks either set records against the Bruins like Wazzu’s QB with nine touchdown passes in a game or make names for themselves like Oregon State’s Jake Luton who was added to the Maxwell Award watch list after throwing five TDs versus UCLA.

On the other hand, Stanford’s passing game is pedestrian. The Cardinal are #76 in the nation averaging 228.2 yards per game. Could UCLA improve against the Cardinal? Or will Stanford continue the 2019 tradition of abusing UCLA’s pass defenders?

PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: How many passing yards will Stanford throw for against the UCLA defense?

Both UCLA and Stanford are below average in penalties allowed. UCLA averages about six penalties a game while Stanford averages about seven. But I am not interested in the total amount of penalties for each team in this game. What I am interested in are the number of penalties that result in first downs for the other team. PGG #2 is a two part question.

PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: How many penalties that result in Cardinal first downs will UCLA commit tonight? How many penalties that result in UCLA first downs will Stanford commit tonight?

Although UCLA has shown improvement offensively in the last few games, those performances were against teams in the bottom quarter of FBS defenses. Washington State is #115 in total defense, Arizona is #119 in total defense, and Oregon State is #109 in total defense. Stanford’s total defense, although not great, is middle-of-the-road, ranked #67 out of 130 teams. The Cardinal allow an average of 393.7 yards per game. Stanford’s scoring defense is also middle-of-the-road, allowing 26.5 points per game, and tied for #64 in the nation.

How will UCLA’s improving offense, no matter who is under center, perform against a tougher defense than the Bruins have seen for over a month? This is another two-parter.

PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: How many total offensive yards (no special teams yards) will UCLA gain against Stanford? How many points will UCLA’s offense put on the board versus the Cardinal?

Make your guesses in the comment section below. Or, if you have any other thoughts regarding this week’s PGG, the Tool song, or the UCLA football program in general, do not hesitate to let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Go Bruins!