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Pick-Six: “Rosen Watch” and a Record For the Bruin Defense

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UCLA’s defense did something it has never done before against Memphis last week

NCAA Football: UCLA at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

This is the second installment of Pick-Six, a weekly set of notes about UCLA football and its upcoming matchup.

1) Stanford already misses Christian McCaffrey. The versatile back headed a formidable Cardinal offense for the past two seasons, amassing an insane amount of yardage against a group of pretty competitive teams.

But just how much did Stanford rely on the now-Carolina Panthers star on offense? The verdict: a lot.

Across his three-year career, McCaffrey accumulated 5,128 yards from scrimmage, nearly one-third of Stanford’s entire offense. He accounted for 42.1 percent of the Cardinal’s total yardage in 2015 and 2016 combined.

Lastly, the running back dominated against the Bruins. In three games, he compiled 341 yards and four touchdowns.

UCLA defensive coordinator Tom Bradley should be happy that he won’t have to deal with the former Heisman candidate.

2) Jim Mora’s teams have never been terrible on the road. As a head coach in the NFL, his team never suffered a losing record in road games during the regular season. A similar trend occurred at UCLA up until last year.

But the team struggled in 2016 away from Pasadena, garnering a 1-5 record. As a result of last week’s loss, the Bruins own a five-game losing streak on the road.

Fans should still be somewhat optimistic. UCLA lost by 10 or fewer points in four of those five matchups. And remember that three of those were with Mike Fafaul behind center.

Stanford hasn’t been as dominant as home in the past few seasons either. The last time the Cardinal went undefeated at home in one season was 2013.

The Bruins have a shot, even if Mora and company have struggled away from the Rose Bowl more recently.

3) Semi-Rosen Watch – Despite tossing two picks against Memphis, UCLA’s quarterback is averaging 427.6 yards per game and still has a 12-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

But this will be Rosen’s most difficult test thus far. Not many quarterbacks eclipsed 400 yards against the Cardinal secondary throughout the decade.

The last time anyone accrued more than 400 yards was Washington State’s Jeff Tuel in 2012. Stanford still won that game 24-17 too.

Rosen surely has the ability to sustain his average, and last week put him one step closer to breaking Brett Hundley’s single-season record for most passing yards in a season.

Just don’t be surprised if his average sits below 400 after Saturday’s game.

4) Okay, here’s some more stats on Rosen. The junior has had a rough go in the final quarter against Memphis. While it wasn’t the first time he’s tossed an interception in the fourth quarter, he hasn’t been prone to it.

All of Rosen’s interceptions have been spread out in terms of when they occur.

Josh Rosen Career Interceptions by Quarter

Quarter Interceptions
Quarter Interceptions
First 4
Second 4
Third 5
Fourth 5

The one against Memphis was dire, as it was a close game for the entire afternoon. Don’t be fooled by the small sample size. But also don’t be naive.

Rosen surely can improve in high-pressure situations late in the game.

5) Stanford and UCLA consistently sit the top 25 national rankings typically every season.

But not this year.

For the first time since 2009, the Bruins and Cardinal will face off as unranked opponents. It’s also the second straight time the two teams squared off to begin conference play. Everyone likely remembers last year’s heartbreaker at home.

UCLA hasn’t been too successful against Stanford in general, but even less so in conference openers. Since 2000, the Bruins are just 1-3 against the Cardinal to open up Pac-12 play.

Mora has had his own troubles against Stanford and coach David Shaw. Since taking the helm, UCLA is winless against Shaw’s squads. The last time the Bruins defeated the Cardinal was in 2008.

Those trends could be reversed Saturday.

6) I apologize for bringing up the Memphis game and how poorly our defense played, but I kind of have to.

While the Bruins allowed a preposterous 560 yards on defense, what killed them most were big plays, specifically ones for 30 yards or more. The Tigers had seven plays in which they garnered more than 30 yards.

That’s the most any team has had against UCLA in the Jim Mora era. Three of those plays went for touchdowns.

The next most during Mora’s tenure was against Arizona State last year. Stanford probably isn’t as big a threat as Memphis was, but the Bruins will have to double down to ensure the Cardinal cannot capitalize on big plays.

7) Extra Point!

Not too wacky this time, but food for thought.

During his six years at the helm, Shaw has claimed three Pac-12 championships. Mora has yet to win a Pac-12 championship, although he has won the South division once.

Is Shaw a better coach than Mora based on that alone?