Stanford (6-5) at (9) UCLA (9-2) (ET)
GAME NOTES: With the Pac-12 South Division title hanging in the balance, the ninth-ranked UCLA Bruins contend with the Stanford Cardinal in a conference clash at the Rose Bowl on Friday afternoon.
Stanford, which hails from the Pac-12 North, has endured a down season by its recent lofty standards. Although the Cardinal have won the necessary number of games to ensure a trip to a bowl game (6-5), they are destined to finish with their worst record since 2009 even if they win this game and their ensuing bowl game. At the very least, Stanford took care of business against rival California last weekend, rolling to a 38-17 victory in the Big Game.
"It was good to see us get that sixth victory and we'll try to get one more next week," Stanford coach David Shaw said after the victory. "We love that extra game to work with the young guys, and at the same time, you want that extra game for your seniors and your guys to go out with a bowl victory."
UCLA has been bowl eligible for a while now, but its sights are set much higher than that. The Bruins rolled over USC last weekend, 38-20, to earn their fifth straight win and improve to 9-2 overall and 6-2 in league play. They are tied for first place in the Pac-12 South with Arizona and Arizona State, who meet in their regular season finale on Friday as well.
"I talk about the Pac-12 Championship. We have to win Friday. If we can win Friday, we will have another shot to win the Pac-12 Championship," UCLA coach Jim Mora said, reinforcing his team's focus on the task at hand. "I don't talk about that other stuff. A chance to go compete for the Pac-12 Championship. Our world's got to end Friday, and it will."
The Bruins will have to reverse a recent losing streak to take out Stanford, which has won six straight in the series, including a 24-10 triumph last season. UCLA still leads the Cardinal all-time, 45-37-3.
Although it has rarely been an offensive power, Stanford has really fallen off this season, as it ranks 11th in the Pac-12 in total yards (382 ypg) and last in scoring (25.2 ppg). The Cardinal have really struggled in the red zone, converting on a conference-worst 69.6 percent of their visits there.
The offense will be slowed even more this weekend, as leading receiver Ty Montgomery (61 receptions, 604 yards, three TDs) is out with a shoulder injury. That will put a lot of pressure on Austin Hooper (32 receptions, 377 yards, two TDs) and Devon Cajuste (28 receptions, 460 yards, three TDs).
With Montgomery out, that means Kevin Hogan also has the pressure of having to work without his favorite target. Hogan used to be able to get away with being a game manager, but he needed to be more this season and was never quite able to do so. He has completed an impressive 64.5 percent of his pass attempts, but averages just 215.4 yards per game, while managing 15 touchdowns passes and eight interceptions. He connected on 15-of-20 attempts against California, but had no touchdown passes and an interception, although he made up for the mistake with a score on the ground.
Hogan did not need to be all that impressive because Remound Wright exploded for 92 yards and four touchdowns in the dominating victory. Wright (488 yards, six TDs) leads the team in rushing yards and touchdowns, doing so on a team- best 112 carries. Kelsey Young (305 yards) and Barry Sanders (300 yards) have gotten to 300 yards as well.
If Stanford's offense could have been more productive this season, the Cardinal could be in a similar position as UCLA. After all, the Cardinal are among the national leaders in total defense (289.7 ypg), and points allowed (16.5 ppg), although they are tied with Marshall in the second category.
UCLA is a far more balanced squad than Stanford. The Bruins are compiling 486.6 yards per game on offense, which ranks fifth in the Pac-12, while posting the third-best effort in the league in total defense (397.8 ypg). In their win over USC, the Bruins slipped to 461 total yards, but they coupled that with a 276-yard yield on defense.
The versatility of Brett Hundley and the rushing of Paul Perkins has powered UCLA's offensive attack this season. Hundley has completed an impressive 72 percent of his pass attempts for 2,873 yards and 20 touchdowns, compared to only five interceptions. In addition, he has picked up 566 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
Meanwhile, Perkins has run for more yards than any other player in the Pac-12 (1,265), doing so on 214 carries, while finding his way into the end zone seven times. He had 93 yards and a score against USC, while Hundley tallied 326 yards and three scores through the air.
Jordan Payton (61 receptions, 870 yards, seven TDs) is the most productive pass-catcher on the roster, although Devin Fuller (50 receptions, 390 yards, TD) has been a reliable possession receiver. No other player on the team has more than 25 receptions.
Without Montgomery, Stanford's already slumping offense will be even less potent. Normally, the Cardinal can make up for that by dominating on defense, but that has not always been the case this season. UCLA is red hot right now and with the chance of winning the division up in the air, expect it to stay that way.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCLA 24, Stanford 17