The Bruins and Cardinal play what could be considered a must-win game for both teams.
UCLA’s fourth quarter rally last week against Fresno State came up just short, but the Bruins are still ranked No. 24 in both major polls and 2-1 overall. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, despite a low completion percentage, has been outstanding this season and ranks among the nation’s best in both yards per completion and passing efficiency. The Bruins have relied heavily on two playmakers this season as Michigan transfer running back Zach Charbonnet leads the team in rushing, averages more than 10 yards per carry and has scored six touchdowns, while Receiver Kyle Phillips leads the team in receptions, yards and receiving scores. On defense, UCLA leads the Pac-12 in rushing defense and sacks but has struggled defending the pass. The Bruins ranked 125th out of 130 in passing yards per game.
Stanford looked sluggish in their first game of the season, a 24-7 loss to Kansas State, but has rebounded with wins over USC and Vanderbilt. Quarterback Tanner McKee has been on a mission since taking over the reins of the offense. Over the last two games, his first two career starts, McKee has thrown four touchdown passes and no interceptions, and also ran for two more scores. The Cardinal have four reliable running backs. The quadruplets of Austin Jones, Nathaniel Peat, Casey Filkins and E.J. Smith ran for 195 yards and two touchdowns last week against Vanderbilt, with all four earning between four and seven carries. Defensively, the Cardinal have had to withstand injury issues in 2021, but cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly leads a secondary that has excelled against the pass. Kelly is tied for the team lead in tackles and leads the team in both passes defended and interceptions.
This is a matchup of strength on weakness. UCLA will look to pound the ball on the ground against Stanford’s porous run defense, while the Cardinal will look to air it out against the Bruins’ suspect pass defense. Whichever team can find more holes will win.