Five questions answered about UCLA

Jacob Rayburn, Publisher
Cardinal Sports Report
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Stanford has won nine straight games against UCLA and the two conference rivals meet again Saturday night.

Stanford needs No. 10 in a row not just because it's an impressive mark in the long-running series between the two schools, but more importantly to reverse Stanford's season. The Cardinal are 1-2, which is the worst start since 2008 -- also known as the last non-bowl season for Stanford.

To help Stanford fans know what to expect against UCLA, BruinsSportsReport publisher Edward Lewis answered five questions about the Bruins.

1. How would you evaluate the cause of the defense's struggles and what does the injury report look like for that unit this weekend?

"In my opinion, every issue UCLA has this season stems from their inability to stop the run without dedicating huge resources to it. Against Texas A&M, they were absolutely gashed by TAMU running backs. Luckily for them, they devoted massive resources to stopping the run, and TAMU’s backup quarterback was so bad, they escaped with a win.

"Against Hawaii, they still hemorrhaged yards, but the Bruins’ offense was just so much more dominant than Hawaii that they came away with the win there. Finally, against Memphis, when they decided to make the Tigers beat them with the pass and devoted resources to stopping the run, quarterback Riley Ferguson absolutely torched UCLA DBs who were left alone on an island.

"Essentially, the key to beating UCLA is having a competent quarterback to shred UCLA’s defense for when it inevitably has to bring more guys in the box to stop the run.

"As far as injuries go, Jim Mora doesn’t give us a report or anything like that. The main starters who are questionable for the game, though, appear to be LB Kenny Young, DE Jaelan Phillips, DB Jaleel Wadood and RB Soso Jamabo."

2. Who are the standout players on defense and is there anyone who the coaches are expecting to step up to be part of the solution?

"UCLA’s defense is one of the worst in the country, so there aren’t many standouts. Phillips and Darnay Holmes, the two five-star freshmen, have been big-play players. But Phillips (ankle) might not play and Holmes is coming off a game where he got torched.

"Safety Adarius Pickett has been known to be a ball hawk and DE Jacob Tuioti-Mariner can put pressure on the quarterback. But it’s a defense that’s lacking playmakers right now, particularly in the linebacker corps."

3. Obviously Josh Rosen is an elite quarterback, but who else has made the passing game so dynamic so far this season?

"Receiver Darren Andrews and tight end Caleb Wilson have been unstoppable when it comes to catching footballs from Rosen. Receivers Theo Howard and Jordan Lasley have made some huge plays as well, and the O-line has been a pleasant surprise when it comes to pass blocking.

"Rosen, the receivers and the passing game have really been the lone bright spot for UCLA so far through three games."

4. Even though the offense is scoring a lot of points, is there any concern about what appears to be a lack of a running game, or was that expected this season?

"Absolutely. UCLA’s running backs have been very average this season and there’s a chance they’re without both Nate Starks (who’s likely done for the season with a knee injury) and Jamabo (undisclosed) on Saturday. There is a bright spot, though. Jumbo RB Jalen Starks ran well in spurts against Memphis. Perhaps he’s the solution to UCLA’s running game woes."

5. How has the offensive line developed as a pass blocking unit given the narrative in the past that Rosen is often under pressure?

"It has been great so far this season. He was knocked around early in the TAMU game, but outside of that, he’s been relatively clean. That’s probably been the biggest reason for his monster season so far. When you give a QB like Rosen time, he tends to take advantage of it."

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