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Stanford vs. UCLA: Stepfan Taylor, Cardinal Offense Can Gash Bruins Defense On the Ground

The Stanford Cardinal offense isn't quite the wrecking ball it was last season, but it's putting enough holes in football tenements this season. The UCLA defense (which hasn't performed well yet) will have its hands full trying to contain every facet of the offense.

Stanford rushing offense vs. UCLA rushing defense

The Cardinal boast a small but efficient rushing attack behind their new feature-back Stepfan Taylor. The Bruins did just manage to put up a good effort against Oregon State, but it was Oregon State, team without a running back. Taylor split carries with several running backs last season, but has now become Stanford's top runner, averaging 5.39 yards per carry, 19th in the nation. With defenses focused on Andrew Luck, he becomes most potent when the Cardinal capture their first lead, ripping off an incredible 7.76 yards per carry in situations when Stanford takes an early lead.

UCLA's rushing defense? Putrid, giving up almost as much as Stanford gains per play (5.27 yards per carry, 109th in the nation). They're even worse on 1st down, giving up over six yards per carry (111th in the country) and setting up all sorts of second-and-short situations that a defense can easily exploit. They can't get negative plays either, netting only 16 tackles for loss (96th in the nation).

If UCLA is going to stop Taylor, it's at the goal-line, where his numbers are pedestrian (he averages only 1.33 yards per carry in the red zone). UCLA is giving up 3.67 yards per carry in the red zone (103rd in the nation).  This is shaping up to be a colossal mismatch on paper.

Stanford passing offense vs. UCLA passing defense

Meet Andrew Luck. He good with the football.

Luck is almost unstoppable on first down, putting up over 12 yards per attempt and completing an incredible 79% of his passes.  Luck's passer rating does decline by down--in fact on third down his numbers are fairly pedestrian--but he's so good on the first two downs that he rarely ends up in those situations. In fact, he's better in 3rd and long as opposed to 3rd and short, making him deadly in nearly any obvious passing situation.

Compared to their horrid running stats, UCLA's passing defense is average. They give up a lot of completions but only for a modest 6.8 yards per attemptHowever their third down defense is pretty bad, giving up a 70% completion rate and a 50%+ first down conversion rate. And their first down stats (73% completion rate, 7 yards per pass attempt) are pure death, making you think Luck should accomplish what he wants.

Good luck Bruins. You're gonna need it.

For more on Stanford football, head to Rule of Tree. For more on UCLA football, head to Bruins Nation.