Friday, November 30, 2012
Can UCLA create another Pac-12 surprise?
By Ted Miller
STANFORD, Calif -- The big pregame news in advance of UCLA's visit to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game is this: Sun. After a long and torrential rain storm, the sun is shining and there's blue sky over Stanford Stadium.
A good sign for the power blue Bruins? You'd think a soaked field and rainy conditions would favor the Cardinal, a power team if there ever was one, as was made clear in their powerful 35-17 victory in these teams' meeting six days ago.
Of course, there are dark clouds on the horizon and weather reports are bleak: The rain should return, and it might not be a sprinkle.
Weather! That's the newest thing we can add for a matchup that we've considered in great detail for two weeks running.
The line of scrimmage feels like the story here. UCLA needs to find a way to minimize Stanford's advantage there on both sides of the ball. Last week, the Bruins were outrushed 221 yards to 73 and they yielded seven sacks.
It's not easy to counteract that. The most obvious way is to get QB Brett Hundley moving -- rollouts and designed runs. Further, he needs to get the ball out of his hands quicker. It's better to scramble or throw the ball away than take a sack.
As for Stanford, its prime concern is not assuming anything. The Cardinal can reverse last week's score merely by not showing the same fire and focus, by seeing last week's result as proof positive of their superiority. Stanford should and will be confident. But it can't afford to be overconfident.
Finally, if the rain returns, it could make things sloppy. Sloppy could make things interesting. A few turnovers here or there could swing things.
If there is one lesson we learned in the Pac-12 this year, it is there are no sure things. USC and Oregon were expected to be playing this game. Neither is. Oregon State lost nine games in 2011, so there was no way the Beavers win nine in 2012. They will after whipping Nicholls State on Saturday, they will. There was no way Washington would lose to woeful Washington State. It did.
Much favors Stanford. But there's no reason we can't see another big surprise.