No. 7 Stanford has started impressively. The Cardinal easily enough dispatched Kansas State in their first game, took a week off and returned to destroy USC behind some Christian McCaffrey savagery last Saturday.
The Cardinal haven't taken this show on the road yet. That changes at UCLA on Saturday, in the Pac-12's premier game of the week. UCLA started the year ranked but fell out after a tough loss at Texas A&M. The Bruins have steadied themselves and earned a nice win at BYU last weekend, and they could re-enter the top 25 by beating Stanford at home. A win would also keep UCLA alive for a berth in the College Football Playoff, where Stanford and Washington currently look like the Pac-12's best hopes.
There's a lot of star power here. Both teams recruit extremely well, and a Josh Rosen-led offense against a McCaffrey-led offense means there should be some points here. Stanford has appeared to be the better team, but the game's in Los Angeles and could well go either way. This should be fun.
How to watch, stream, and listen
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ABC. The broadcasters are Chris Fowler (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst), and Sam Ponder (sideline).
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Spread: Stanford opened as a 2.5-point favorite.
Three big things to know
1. UCLA prevents big plays. Well, here comes McCaffrey. The Bruins are in the top 20 nationally in Defensive IsoPPP, an advanced stat that measures the explosiveness of offensive plays. Stanford produces explosive plays in the top 25 nationally, with McCaffrey doing lots of that damage. (He's got a 41-yard run and a 56-yard catch to his name already, among a few other chunk plays.) Stanford's offense hasn't been all that efficient play to play so far, but that hasn't mattered because of its big plays. UCLA's best hope is to cut off that particular supply line.
2. Ryan Burns looks like the real deal. He's replaced the productive Kevin Hogan as Stanford's quarterback, and he's done a nice job for David Shaw. He hasn't been especially prolific (23-of-33 passing in two games, for 265 yards, two scores and a pick), but he's stayed low on turnovers and been sacked just twice. He looks like the right kind of quarterback to keep a McCaffrey-driven offense on schedule, and that'll be his job against the Bruins.
3. Stanford has dominated this series of late. The all-time record here is 45-39-3 in UCLA's favor, but Stanford's won eight in a row. UCLA hasn't beaten the Cardinal since 2008, which is a pretty extraordinary stretch of futility for two peer programs who play each other every year (including twice in 2012). Here's a chance for UCLA to get up off the mat.