Thursday, November 29, 2012
Stanford-UCLA II: How might sequel differ?
By Ted Miller
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- UCLA and Stanford are playing twice within a week. That's never happened between FBS teams since the NCAA started using classifications in 1937, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
That's nice to know. It's an interesting factoid about the second Pac-12 championship game. But neither coach seemed to rate playing a rematch within six days as more meaningful for one team or the other.
"Last week's score is inconsequential right now," Stanford coach David Shaw said.
Not entirely, in large part because the Cardinal outclassed the Bruins last weekend, winning 35-17. Stanford outrushed UCLA 221 yards to 73 and sacked quarterback Brett Hundley seven times.
The question is whether Shaw's players might become complacent after a decisive win, or whether UCLA counterpart Jim Mora's might have trouble believing they can reverse the result inside of six days.
"I think it cancels each other out," Mora said. "Our jobs are very similar, and that's to get our team refocused on the game tomorrow night."
The obvious angle is what might be different in take 2? How much does Stanford want to deviate from a plan that worked well? And how much can UCLA correct and counter within six days?
"There is a certain amount of carry-over, game-plan-wise in all three phases," Shaw said. "But that the same time, you have to tweak it, you have to change it, you have to give them different to think about. You have to give your players something different to think about."
One tweak: Weather. It could be bad. Rainy and windy. The natural-grass field will be covered in advance of the game, but if it's raining hard, conditions will be sloppy, particularly in the second half.
There's a natural inclination to say a muddy field favors a power team (Stanford), but Mora pointed out that sometimes fast guys in space (UCLA) can thrive against a defense that's trying to react without sliding.
Another question for Stanford is the absence of punter Daniel Zychlinski, who hurt his shoulder against the Bruins. One of the Pac-12's best punters, he will be replaced by Ben Rhyne.
And, if it's a close game, Zychlinski's second job could be an issue: He holds for kicker Jordan Williamson.
While some might find a rematch boring, there is some curiosity as to how each team will approach the game. Can UCLA's offensive line bounce back from a beating? Is Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor going to run wild again?
And even if the idea of a rematch seems boring, the stakes are not: The winner goes to the Rose Bowl. It's been over a decade since either made the trip to Pasadena to play in the Granddaddy.
The coaches didn't seemed bored.
Said Shaw, "We prepared like this was a new opponent."