Only six days after beating UCLA 35-17 and simultaneously clinching the Pac-12 North, the Stanford Cardinal will host the Bruins in a rematch at home on Friday night.
The implications of the game are huge, as the victor not only wins the Pac-12 crown, but also earns the right to represent the conference in the Rose Bowl against the winner of the Big-10 conference.
Last Saturday, the Cardinal held UCLA’s impressive running back Jonathan Franklin to only 65 yards, his second-lowest total of the year. If Stanford’s front seven, led by linebackers Chase Thomas and Shayne Skov, can repeat their performance this week, it should be a long day for the Bruins.
Stanford also gave UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley a hard time last week, limiting him to 261 total yards. On top of that, the Cardinal sacked Hundley an astounding total of seven times, giving him fits in the pocket all day.
On the other side of the ball, Stepfan Taylor put on a clinic against UCLA’s run defense, posting 142 yards on only 20 carries (7.1 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. Stanford needs to play to their strengths on offense again and get Taylor into a groove early.
Quarterback Kevin Hogan, who has been an absolute all-star under center since taking over the starting job four weeks ago, did not blow anyone away last week. However, he really didn’t need to given Taylor’s success on the ground.
Even so, Hogan was solid, completing 15 of his 22 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown. As good as he’s been, Hogan is still pretty inexperienced. While he has proven he can keep a cool head in big games by leading his team to victory over Oregon on the road, he needs to remain calm and confident in a big game like the conference championship.
If the Bruins want to take the Cardinal down this time around, the better have put in a lot of time in the film room. Last week, Stanford dominated in almost every area of the game, and look to repeat that production this week.
The game kicks off at 5:00 on Friday night. Be sure to tune in, as the Pac-12 conference championship game should prove to be one of the best matchups of the season.