No. 12 UCLA will return home on Saturday, coming off its first loss of the season and looking to keep its Pac-12 Conference title hopes intact against a suddenly resurgent Stanford in Pasadena, Calif.
The Bruins (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) fell to Oregon at Autzen Stadium for the eighth consecutive in a 45-30 loss Saturday. That dropped them behind the Ducks in the conference title race, because the Pac-12 abandoned its prior divisional-representative model to determine conference championship game participants.
As a result, the teams with the top two overall records will advance to the Dec. 2 title game in Las Vegas. Oregon now sits alone in first with the only unblemished league mark; with a single loss, UCLA is tied with Utah, which the Bruins beat on Oct. 8, and Southern California, which the Bruins host on Nov. 19.
“The one thing I told those guys, as I walked up the tunnel at the end of the game, it’s been 357 days since we lost our last game,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said during his media availability. “Last loss we had before that was Oct. 30, 2021. I think they righted the ship and did a great job to finish out the season with three wins, then starting off this season with six wins. There was only one other team in the country, Clemson, that had more wins than us over that time.
“This is a really good football team,” he added. We didn’t play up to what we should have played on Saturday, then we’ll move on.”
While UCLA’s winning streak dating back to last season ended, Stanford (3-4, 1-4) ended two dubious streaks in its most recent outings.
The Cardinal dropped 11 straight games against FBS opponents dating back to last season before its 16-14 win at Notre Dame on Oct. 15. Ten of those losses came against Pac-12 opponents, a skid Stanford ended last week in its 15-14 win over Arizona State.
Though the Cardinal opened conference play 0-4 this season, they showed flashes of returning to the form typical of coach David Shaw’s teams from 2011 through 2018, when Stanford won at least nine games in seven of eight seasons.
Stanford committed two turnovers inside the 2-yard line in a 41-28 loss to USC in Week 2, and it gave up a befuddling touchdown with 13 seconds remaining to lose to Oregon State on Oct. 8, 28-27.
Shaw said Tuesday that Thompson-Robinson and UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet had “given us fits” in prior meetings.
“Hopefully, we play better than we did last week, and that’s the charge we’ve been on the last weeks … ready to take a significant jump and give ourselves a chance to win on the road at UCLA,” Shaw said.
Since giving up 40-plus points in each of its first three Pac-12 games, the Stanford defense has limited its three most recent opponents to 56 combined points. The passing defense has improved since allowing four first-half touchdowns from USC’s Caleb Williams in Week 2, coming into UCLA holding opponents to fewer than 60 percent completions and 214.4 total yards through the air per game.
Run defense, however, has been an issue. The Cardinal rank tied for 112th nationally at 187.6 yards allowed per game, at 5.2 per carry. Charbonnet went for 118 yards rushing in last season’s 35-24 win at Stanford, while Thompson-Robinson carried for two touchdowns.
–Field Level Media