Stanford vs. UCLA Football Preview 2011

6 Stanford will face UCLA at home on Saturday. UCLA is currently 2-2, coming off a win last week against the currently winless Oregon State squad. This is the second PAC-12 conference game for Stanford this season.

  1. The Linebackers – Middle linebacker Shayne Skov is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. The loss of Skov cannot be overstated because he fulfilled a variety of roles for this defense. He played in coverage, was strong against the run, and made the most of his blitz opportunities. Senior Max Bergen will be taking on Skov’s role of really leading and holding that defense together. A.J. Tarpley and Jarek Lancaster are currently projected to fill Skov’s spot. Not only will Bergen have to take on more responsibility but Tarpley and Lancaster will need to step up as well. They have played well in a rotational role and now need to take advantage of these increased opportunities, even if they came a little sooner than expected.

  2. Avoiding another slow start – The game against Arizona could have potentially been much closer had it not been for two missed field goals. Last week, the offense was able to move the ball but struggled in the red zone to score touchdowns. Just as Arizona could have easily been within only a couple points of Stanford, Stanford could have easily been up by a couple touchdowns. Early production in the red zone will help to build momentum.  With a lead, the defense can blitz the other team and put pressure on the opposing offense to make tough plays.

  3. Containing the UCLA rushing attack – UCLA is currently rushing the ball for 214 yards a game. The Cardinal defense has successfully stifled their opponent’s rushing attack so far. They have not, however, played a rushing attack as effective as UCLA’s. Looking at this strength on strength match up will help to determine how well the team is faring without Skov. UCLA may end up having to throw the ball a bit more than they are comfortable doing.

  4. Luck’s Effectiveness – Last year, Luck only completed 11 of 24 passes for 151 yards. UCLA’s defense did a fairly good job of giving Luck fits. Luck, however, was able to complete some big third downs throws. He also ran for 63 yards, showing his ability to get yards in other ways. Luck has shown resilience. He will take whatever the defense gives him, even if they only give him a sliver of running room. UCLA may have some trouble playing the same kind of coverage they did last year because of injuries in their secondary. That aside, the UCLA defense will be using all the tricks at their disposal to try and force some bad throws. UCLA will likely prioritize stopping Luck over stopping Taylor, which may open up some big running lanes.

  5. Coming off a bye week – The Cardinal have had one week to rest and decide how they will approach the rest of the season. The bye week allows for Shaw and the other coaches to decide how they will deal with the linebacker depth and if any changes will be made in the secondary. On offense, the rest allowed Fleener and Owusu to hopefully recover from their injuries in the previous game.

Stanford has UCLA at home. The Cardinal should definitely come out of this game with a victory. UCLA will put some points on the board but they will not be able to keep up with Luck and the rest of the Stanford offense. Linebacker Chase Thomas will also likely have a little extra burst when going after the quarterback on Saturday.

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