Thursday, November 29, 2012
What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 14
By Kevin Gemmell
A few storylines to keep an eye on in the Pac-12 this week.
1. No quit: Those who were in the camp that UCLA had nothing to play for last week, I ask you this: Why were Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin still in the game in the fourth quarter? Why was UCLA going for it on fourth down? You can say the Bruins were outmuscled, outschemed and, judging by the final score, definitely outplayed. But it wasn't for lack of effort. Because there were a lot of P.O.'d guys in the postgame news conference. And rightfully so.
Kevin Hogan and the Cardinal got the best of the Bruins last week.
2. In the trenches: It was clear that Stanford dominated the point of attack -- on both sides of the ball. The Cardinal were able to stop the run, pressure the quarterback and break off some big runs on offense behind Stepfan Taylor. It will be interesting to see what adjustments Noel Mazzone and UCLA's offense makes this week. Will there be more designed roll outs for Brett Hundley? More pocket movement? Misdirection? Angle blocking? You don't change who you are by the 14th week of the season. But a couple of tweaks will be required to keep this one closer.
3. More blitzing? The Cardinal didn't blitz as much as many thought. In fact, according to the folks at ESPN Stats & Information, the Cardinal sent four or fewer rushers 84.8 percent of the time in the first meeting. That means they were able to get penetration and sacks mostly on the strength of their 3-4 base defense. That opens up a world of possibilities for the rematch. The Bruins now have to find a way to get positive yards against Stanford's base, but also account for the possibility that the Cardinal could send more than they did in Round 1.
4. Youth movement: Both teams are led by redshirt freshmen quarterbacks -- both of whom have had tremendous success at such a young age. Hundley has been as athletic and sensational as advertised (and yes, Rick Neuheisel deserves credit for both recruiting and redshirting Hundley) and Kevin Hogan has given the Cardinal offense a jump-start. He has won all three of his starts, including at Autzen and at the Rose Bowl. Pretty impressive. Hogan and the Cardinal got the better of Hundley and the Bruins the first time around. It's going to be fun watching these two over the next couple of years.
5. Adjustments: When you look at the coaching staffs from both programs, there is a ton of NFL experience. Most of these guys have at least some experience in preparing a team for a quick turnaround to face the same opponent. I wouldn't expect either team to stray too far from what got them here. But I'd expect some new wrinkles from two very good coaching staffs.
6. That other game: Lest we forget that the Oregon State Beavers are also in action this weekend against Nicholls State, a game that was originally scheduled for Sept. 1 before Hurricane Isaac postponed things. I think this is a good thing for the Beavers (except of course, if they lose). It gives them an extra opportunity to go out and play another game -- and Mike Riley said it was good to get on the practice field after their showing against Oregon in the Civil War. Nothing makes a loss go away like a win. And now they get that chance.