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Stanford

vs.

UCLA

College Football Pick

9/24/16

In Stanford's Pac-12 opener last weekend, they made no mistake about who the favorite to win the conference is going to be again. Of course, the Cardinal will have competition throughout the season, and that includes UCLA who gave up 56 points in this matchup a year ago. And so, Stanford opened as a -3 point road favorite at 5 Dimes Sportsbook.

In that 2015 meeting, the Bruins were supposed to be a conference contender and many gave them a chance to win in Stanford. However, the defense failed to show up as Christian McCaffrey ran for a ridiculous 243 yards and four touchdowns. Sure, UCLA scored and tried to make the result look respectable, but 15 of their 35 points came in the fourth quarter when the game was long gone.

So far, this looks like a different UCLA team. Whether that's a good thing or not, remains to be seen. They lost at Texas A&M in the opener and squeaked by BYU last weekend. The offense hasn't really taken the next step in quarterback Josh Rosen's second season, which is something of concern. He's completing just 60.5% of his passes for 4 TDs and 4 INTs. To beat good teams in the Pac-12, he'll need to play better, simple as that.

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The Bruins actually ran the ball well in last year's loss, averaging 5.8 yards per carry as a team, but it didn't matter in the end. That said, the running game isn't nearly as good as a year ago, either. Soso Jamabo missed last week's game with Bolu Olorunfunmi and Nate Starks taking up bigger roles and not doing much against BYU.

That's not good news as the Cardinal defense has been its usual self early on, allowing 23 points total in their first two games against decent offenses.

And then on the other end, has UCLA improved defensively from a year ago when they were destroyed in this matchup? So far, it hasn't looked like it, allowing 31 points to A&M and then 21 to UNLV in their second game.

And of course, there's still this guy named Christian McCaffrey in the backfield for the Cardinal. He's been his dominant self in the first two games, already with 63 total touches and four touchdowns. The Bruins know they have to stop McCaffrey, but will they be able to? Nothing in the early games point to UCLA being able to do so.

The one hope for UCLA is that Stanford quarterback Ryan Burns makes a couple mistakes, which isn't out of the question. He hasn't been needed much in the first couple games, but if Rosen can keep the score close for the Bruins, maybe Burns will be asked to do too much. And if that's the case, UCLA may have a chance.

But these are extremes. UCLA needs to move the ball on the ground and somehow stop McCaffrey from breaking loose. This is Stanford's first road game of the year, so that could also be a factor for Burns under center. Then again, it won't be a problem for McCaffrey and that's all that matters. Stanford -3

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