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Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruins Host Stanford Cardinal
Will the last Bruin football game of the season be a tight contest? How will UCLA's rushing attack fare against a vulnerable Cardinal run defense? Can the Bruins do better on 4th down?
Welp, with UCLA football announcing that it would decline a potential bowl at the end of the truncated 2020 season, this is the final Pregame Guesses of a year we’d all like to forget. Nevertheless, the Bruins (3-3) would like a win to move over .500 on the season for the first time in head coach Chip Kelly’s three-year tenure.
They’ll take on Stanford (3-2), which is a match-up I prefer after some prognosticators predicted that the Bruins would face the Utah Utes. That means the UCLA will have played all three of their traditional California rivals in their seven games in 2020.
It’s the last game of the season. So, I am just going to select a song that always puts a smile on my face. There is no relevance to the football game tomorrow. It’s just a song I love by a band I love. They have lots of other, more popular songs, but this one goes against their punk roots. Here is The Clash with “The Magnificant Seven”:
This tune is way more rap than punk and was allegedly inspired by rap legends, The Sugar Hill Gang and Grandmaster Flash. A classic. Plus, the video is like a time capsule.
The Stanford Cardinal started off the season with two losses, but have since won three straight close games, prevailing over UC Berkeley by one point in The Big Game, knocking off Washington by five points, and beating Oregon State by three points. All of ‘Furd’s victories were one-score games. All three of UCLA’s losses, interestingly, have also been by less than one score. Win or lose versus Stanford, I predict that the game comes down to the wire. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: True or false? No matter who wins, this will be a one-score game.
Stanford is #85 (out of 127 teams) in total defense, allowing an average of 429.8 yards per game. Their rushing defense is more susceptible to exploitation than their passing defense, as ‘Furd allows 208.2 yard per game on the ground, #102 in the country. With Demetric Felton as “lightning,” Brittain Brown as “thunder,” and throwing in some Dorian Thompson-Robinson keepers and scrambles, UCLA should make it a priority to exploit Stanford’s rushing defense. Will they succeed in doing so? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: Predict the number of rushing yards that UCLA will gain against the Stanford defense.
Let’s talk about fourth downs. If you’ve been seeing or following my comments in various game threads and recaps, I consistently call out UCLA’s fourth down play calling. It is so predictable. RPO with the running back going up the gut. Everybody and their mother knows it is coming, but the Bruins still run the play, mostly unsuccessfully. Can I get a play action please!?! As a result, the Bruins are among the worst teams in college football on fourth down conversion percentage, tied for #118, converting only 5 out of 15 attempts, a miserable .333 percentage. Heck, Tony Gwynn had a better career batting average than UCLA’s fourth down conversion rate this season. Adding salt to the wounds, several of those 4th downs failures were critical plays that, had they been converted, could have put a few more ticks in the win column for the Bruins including the Southern Cal game. Is Chip too stubborn to change? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: How many fourth downs will UCLA attempt to convert? How many will the Bruins successfully convert?
BONUS GUESS: UCLA and Stanford seem to be pretty evenly matched. Who wins the final game of the season tomorrow night at the Rose Bowl?
It has been great to get back to writing Pregame Guesses this year, even though it is through a new medium, The Mighty Bruin. Make your final guesses of 2020 in the comment section. Happy Holidays! And, raise your glass to a better 2021! Cheers!