Inquirer Daily News
 
                  === Top-25 foes clash in key Pac-12 tilt ===
 
 Pasadena, CA (Sports Network) - In what could be a preview of the Pac-12 title
 game, the No. 11 Stanford Cardinal will land in the Rose Bowl looking to slow
 down the No. 15 UCLA Bruins in the regular-season finale for both squads.
 
 In a weekend in which the top two ranked teams in the country fell, Stanford
 posted a stunning 17-14 win in overtime over the then No. 1 Oregon Ducks. With
 the win the Cardinal took control of the Pac-12 North Division from the
 Ducks with its 7-1 mark against league foes. If Stanford wins this weekend or
 Oregon loses in its matchup with Oregon State, the Cardinal would earn the
 spot in the Pac-12 championship game on Nov. 30.
 
 Head Coach David Shaw knows that getting to that title game is the real goal
 and that last weekend's win guarantees nothing.
 
 "There is no trophy for (that) game. There is no tangible evidence of (that)
 game," Shaw said. "All we did was put ourselves in a good position and we are
 going to play a really good UCLA team (this) week."
 
 The other half of that title game has already been decided as UCLA wrapped up
 the Pac-12 South division with a 38-28 win over cross-town rival USC last
 weekend. The win was the fifth straight for the Bruins who are 9-2 overall and
 6-2 in league play in the first season under head coach Jim Mora. The nine
 wins is the most in a season for the Bruins since 2006 and only the fourth
 time in the last 20 season UCLA has reached that mark.
 
 For a team that has been a mediocre squad in the past few seasons, the win
 over USC was a big one.
 
 "It was great to finally beat our rivals and clinch the South division. It was
 a big game. My senior year, to go out like this," senior running back
 Johnathan Franklin said.
 
 This rivalry dates back to 1925 and since then, UCLA owns a 45-34-3 series
 lead, although Stanford has won each of the last three contests including a
 45-19 rout last season.
 
 Switching starting quarterbacks late in the season is usually not something a
 team competing for a conference crown has to deal with. However Stanford has
 done just that with Kevin Hogan getting the start under center in each of the
 last two games. The sophomore took over after Josh Nunes struggled for much of
 the regular season. In his two games Hogan has been relatively strong as he
 has throw for 648 yards and seven touchdowns, while completing an impressive
 74.2 percent of his passes with just three interceptions.
 
 No matter who has been throwing the passes this season, Zach Ertz has been
 hauling them in. The senior tight end was named a Mackey Award finalists
 earlier in the week after he brought in nine passes for 75 yards and a crucial
 touchdown against Oregon. On the season Ertz has led the Cardinal in
 receptions (58), receiving yards (747) and touchdowns (6) by a wide margin.
 Drew Terrell (362 yards) and Levine Toilolo (377 yards, 4 TDs) are the only
 other receivers with more than 300 yards, while no player has reached the 30-
 catch plateau besides Ertz.
 
 Joining Ertz as a pillar in the offense is Stepfan Taylor. The senior running
 back has been a workhorse out of the backfield this season carrying the ball
 258 times for 1,222 yards and nine touchdowns. Taylor is the fourth most
 productive rusher in the Pac-12 and one of just five backs to be putting up
 more than 100 yards on the ground on a weekly basis. Taylor is perhaps the
 most valuable player on the offense with no other running back having more
 than 30 carries.
 
 Overall Stanford is a relatively pedestrian offensive team ranking eighth in a
 conference of high-octane offenses in total yards (381.1 ypg).
 
 Where Stanford differs from the powerful offenses that litter the Pac-12 is
 its dominating defense. In the game against Oregon, Stanford held what looked
 to be an unstoppable force to its lowest rushing and points total of the
 season. On the year Stanford is atop the Pac-12 in both total defense (328.4
 ypg) and scoring defense (16.9 ppg). Where the Cardinal have been most
 dominant is against the run, with the team allowing the second fewest yards
 on the ground (71.3 pg) this season.
 
 On a front seven filled with disruptive players, Chase Thomas has been one of
 the best for the Cardinal, racking up 54 total tackles, 10.0 TFLs and 3.5
 sacks. The list of playmakers doesn't stop there though as Shayne Skov (58
 tackles, 7.5 TFLs), Trent Murphy (16.5 TFLs, 9.5 sacks), Usua Amanam (10.5
 TFLs), Ben Gardner (13.5 TFLs, 6.5 sacks) and Henry Anderson (11.0 TFLs, 5.5
 sacks) have all been terrorizing opposing backfields.
 
 That is bad news for UCLA which relies heavily on its ground attack to power
 its impressive offense. In the Pac-12, UCLA is behind only Oregon and Arizona
 in total offense (488.5 ypg), while trailing only the Ducks in putting points
 on the board (37.7 ppg). Those efforts have included the third-best rushing
 attack (207.5 ypg) in the conference.
 
 UCLA has a workhorse back of its own in Johnathan Franklin. The running back
 has racked up 1,441 yards and 10 touchdowns on 228 carries. In the win over
 USC, Franklin was practically unstoppable as he finished with 171 yards and
 two scores on 29 carries.
 
 Most teams breaking in a freshman quarterback would not have been able to
 succeed on offense like UCLA. With Brett Hundley the Bruins haven't had to
 deal with those issues. In just his first season Hundley has been exceptional,
 completing 69.4 percent of his pass attempts for 2,973 yards and 25
 touchdowns. Hundley is a fantastic athlete that extends plays and is more than
 capable of picking up yards on the ground. Hundley has eight rushing
 touchdowns this season and has rushed for more than 50 yards three different
 times. Hundley's season has been fantastic in historical context as well with
 his 249 completions this season a UCLA record.
 
 Hundley also leans on his tight end quite a bit with Joseph Fauria proving to
 be an invaluable asset in the passing game. Fauria has totaled only 478 yards
 this season but has hauled in 10 touchdown passes and is second on the team in
 receptions. Wide receiver Shaquelle Evans (47 receptions, 685 yards) has been
 utilized more down the field than in the red zone.
 
 Obviously UCLA cannot match the firepower that Stanford brings on defense. In
 fact the Bruins will be hard pressed to have the same level of success
 considering they are on the bottom half of the conference in both scoring
 (25.0 ppg, eighth) and total defense (420.3 ypg, eighth). While some of that
 is a result of a quick-strike offense, the Bruins will need to tighten up this
 weekend.
 
 Linebacker Eric Kendricks (112 tackles) is the Pac-12's leading tackler and
 will be needed to keep up that level of play. The Bruins have a dominating
 pass rush of their own with Anthony Barr (18.0 TFLs, 12.0 sacks), Datone Jones
 (13.5 TFLs, 4.0 sacks) and Cassius Marsh (10.0 TFLs, 7.5 sacks) all difficult
 players up front for opposing offensive lines to deal with.
 
 
 
 
 11/21 11:35:34 ET