What to watch: No. 9 UCLA at No. 13 Stanford

UCLA needs a win over Stanford to firmly seize a spot on the national stage. Can the Bruins pull it off?

UCLA offense vs. Stanford defense:

Stanford’s defense isn’t quite what it was used to be, giving up 22.2 points per game after allowing 18.8 over the past three seasons.

On its way to three straight BCS bowls, the Cardinal finished either first or second in the conference in scoring defense, and No. 9 nationally during the 2010 campaign. This year, the team is fifth in the Pac-12. However, much of that is due to the rest of the conference ticking up: Four teams in the league are holding opponents to below 20.0 points per game. Only four Pac-12 teams had done the same in the previous four years combined. Continue reading

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At a glance: No. 9 UCLA at No. 13 Stanford

No. 9 UCLA (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) at No. 13 Stanford (5-1, 3-1)
Stanford Stadium, Oct. 19, 12:30 p.m.
TV: ABC/ESPN2 (Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman, Shannon Spake)
Radio: 570 AM (Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Last meeting: The Bruins need no reminders. UCLA’s 27-24 loss at Stanford in last year’s Pac-12 Championship game was sealed when Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 52-yard field goal attempt fell short in the rain — keeping the team from its first Rose Bowl berth since 1999.

Key storylines: Most of UCLA’s roster clearly remember the back-to-back losses to the Cardinal last November, whether they admit using it as motivation or not. Continue reading

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Phil Steele names eight Bruins midseason All-Pac-12

In the mood for a round of meaningless-but-encouraging awards? Have some midseason All-Pac-12 team mentions, courtesy of college football guru Phil Steele.

Steele named eight UCLA players to his all-conference squads, with outside linebacker Anthony Barr and left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo leading the way on the first team. The pair also landed on Steele’s midseason All-American team, with Barr earning a first-team nod and Su’a-Filo a second.

Center Jake Brendel and linebacker Eric Kendricks both made the midseason second team. Receiver Shaq Evans and running back Steve Manfro joined the pair there, but earned their spots for contributions at kick and punt return.

Quarterback Brett Hundley ended up on the third team, behind Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion. Defensive end Cassius Marsh rounded out the UCLA names on the list.

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What to watch: No. 11 UCLA vs. Cal

As a first-year head coach last season, Jim Mora got a bit of a wake-up call when UCLA fell flat in a 43-17 loss at Cal — a performance for which he blames himself.

Mora still got his team to nine wins in a resurgent season. Sonny Dykes’ Berkeley debut won’t come close to that. Done in by both injuries and a relative inability to play defense, the Bears have become one of the worst teams in the Pac-12. Here’s how the two teams stack up for their 7:30 p.m. Saturday kickoff at the Rose Bowl.

UCLA offense vs. Cal defense

UCLA is averaging 48 points per game (fifth in the country), 561.8 yards (fourth) and a 58.33 percent third-down conversion rate (third). Cal is allowing 524.0 yards per game (123rd) and 45.0 points (124th). Continue reading

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UCLA 59, New Mexico State 13: Anthony Barr

New Mexico State quarterback King Davis III didn’t throw a single pass on his team’s first drive. Yet, the Aggies easily got three first downs, with tailback Brandon Betancourt running for four, six, five, eight, and seven yards, and Davis adding another seven.

“I think we were playing a little too aggressive,” UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr said. “We had a pretty good idea what they were going to. We recognized the formation and what the play-call was going to be, and we tried to jump the gun a little bit.”

The Bruins stuffed the drive soon after that, forcing punt to the 14-yard line. The Aggies finished with 21 first downs, far behind UCLA’s school-record 39.

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Anthony Barr eager to get his first sack

Still without a sack after two games, linebacker Anthony Barr smiled Wednesday when asked if he was frustrated.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I let a couple go last week. They’ll come. I just have to be patient and continue working. I think this week I’ll have a better opportunity.”

Part of reason has been UCLA’s game plan. The Bruins have been more concerned with containing quarterback runs in their first two games rather than. That should change this Saturday against New Mexico State, whose sprint offense has produced 794 passing yards to 306 rushing yards. Continue reading

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Anthony Barr named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week

After a career-high 11 tackles in a 41-21 win at Nebraska, Anthony Barr was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. In addition to logging two of those tackles for loss, the All-American was credited with three forced fumbles.

Oddly, Barr still has not recorded a sack after finishing the 2012 season second in the country with 13.5. Continue reading

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Linebacker Anthony Barr: ‘You can’t keep me off the field’

Linebacker Anthony Barr returned to practice this week from an undisclosed head injury, saying Tuesday that he’s felt 100 percent for “some time now.”

Although he did not disclose the exact nature of his injury beyond being “dinged up,” it’s something he thinks football players probably go through often — even if it goes unspoken. “Players don’t like to talk about that stuff,” Barr said.

After sustaining the injury last week, the All-American linebacker vomited on the sideline before being led out of the facility. Still, he said he never doubted that his status for Saturday’s season opener against Nevada: “You’re not gonna keep me off the field.”

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