Stanford Cardinal at (8) UCLA Bruins (-5, 50 o/u)
A Pac-12 rivalry will be rekindled on Friday, as the UCLA Bruins host the Stanford Cardinal at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena (3:30 p.m. Eastern).
At 9-2, the No. 8 Bruins are the top two-loss team in the College Football Playoff rankings. A win over Stanford, followed by an upset of Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, could mean a playoff spot for the Bruins if there are other upsets at the top of the rankings.
While beating the Ducks (who crushed UCLA in Pasadena earlier this season) would be tough enough, the Bruins need to overcome a dangerous Stanford team this Friday to assure themselves the chance.
The Bruins know Stanford is a tough opponent, despite its 6-5 record.
“They just play football. Big, physical team and they get at it,” said Bruins dual-threat quarterback Brett Hundley, who has passed for 2,873 yards this season (including 20 TDs and just five picks) while adding 566 yards (and eight TDs) on the ground.
Last weekend, UCLA upped its CFP resume by embarrassing USC, 38-20. It was UCLA’s fifth straight win since their own embarrassing defeat against Oregon.
“Something happened after that Oregon game for our team,” Bruins coach Jim Mora said. “If they want to say it relieved the pressure, that’s fine. I just feel like we refocused and gave ourselves a break maybe. We’ve been playing pretty good football since then and getting better on a weekly basis.”
Stanford is 6-5 this season, beating Cal in their last outing but losing the previous two against Oregon and Utah. The Cardinal are 4-4 inside the Pac-12 and will be relegated to a lesser bowl game come December. But spoiling the party for their instate rivals would be a nice way to salvage an off-year.
The Cardinal will be looking to their seventh-ranked defense (16.5 PPG) to slow down Hundley on Friday. Last year, David Shaw’s defense was able to do exactly that, holding the then-sophomore QB to 192 passing yards and forcing two interceptions in a 24-10 Stanford win. That game continued a disappointing trend for UCLA, which is just 1-5 ATS in its last six against Stanford.
This is a new year though, and a new UCLA team; with the Bruins modest five-point home favorites, taking UCLA and laying the points is the better play.
(Photo credit: Neon Tommy [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)