The second annual Pac-12 Championship Game will be hosted by the Stanford Cardinal, winners of the conference's South division, matched up against the UCLA Bruins for the second time in less than a week.
UCLA was dominated in the first matchup in Week 13, losing by a 35-17 score that was as lopsided as 35-10 with seven minutes to play in the third quarter. Stanford controlled the point of attack and running back Stepfan Taylor ran for 142 yards and two scores.
This time around, UCLA doesn't have the threat of Oregon looming or worrying about anything but winning the game and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Head coaches David Shaw and Jim Mora are not only preparing for the same opponent, but preparing on a short week as well.
We've got you covered with everything Pac-12 related for this championship game, including spread information, what it's going to take for each team to win and a prediction on the 2013 Rose Bowl representative.
Where: Stanford Stadium; Stanford, Calif.
When: Friday, November 30, 8 p.m. ET
Listen: AM 570 (UCLA), AM 1050 (Stanford)
Spread: Stanford -8.5 (according to Vegas Insider)
The Cardinal took home an 18-point victory on the final week of the Pac-12 regular season, but it's hard to see how that will translate to the championship game.
I know Stanford looked dominant at times against UCLA, but nine points seems too high in the second meeting in as many weeks. As radio personality Brian Murphy puts it, you can look at this rematch in one of two ways.
So, there's two schools of thought. I'm taking the former, and with the championship on the line, I think UCLA keeps this thing well under nine points.
Excuse-makers could say: #UCLA off emotional win, nothing to play for vs highly motivated Stanford. Others might say: pure a** kicking.— Brian Murphy (@knbrmurph) November 25, 2012
Over/Under: 44 (according to Vegas Insider)
The score went well over this mark in Week 13, largely because Stanford put up huge numbers that they don't normally produce on offense.
This time around, look for the Cardinal to struggle a bit more in the running game, and for the ground game of UCLA to find a way to use the aggressiveness of the opposing front seven to its advantage.
To be honest, I would stay away from this number because it's a little deceiving based on the previous result, coupled with how both teams have performed on offense this season. Bet at your own risk.
Injury Report via USA Today (as of 11/28/12)
|Damien Thigpen||WR||Knee||Out for Season|
BCS/Top 25 Implications
This game helps decide which team goes to the Rose Bowl. Oregon is left out in the cold, but is almost guaranteed a spot in a BCS at-large game with only two SEC spots available.
Simply put, winner goes to the BCS, loser goes to the rest of the bowl pool. It looks like a date with either Nebraska or Wisconsin is in order, as those teams will face off in the Big 10 championship this weekend with the same fate in hand.
No matter what happens, both teams should stay in the Top 25. However, a UCLA loss might open the door for No. 17 Kent State, who needs to be inside the Top 16 to make an automatic BCS appearance as the top-finishing non-AQ team.
There's a lot on the line in this game, and not all of it has to do with the two teams on the field.
Keys to UCLA Victory
The Bruins were unable to run the ball with Jonathan Franklin the way they have all season, plagued by the same interior line pressure that helped slow down Oregon just two weeks prior.
To combat that, UCLA must use more play-action and hot-read plays to get other guys involved. The way this team is built, it isn't going to be able to run right up the middle every play. Using the timely screen and draw to catch the defense off guard should be a point of emphasis for offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.
On defense, the front seven has to find a way to get to Kevin Hogan while also preparing for the work-horse that is Taylor. If the Cardinal control the clock and win the time of possession battle by a considerable margin, the outcome will be much of the same.
Keys to Stanford Victory
Stanford can't get lulled into thinking it's going to defend the home turf without any struggle. UCLA had nothing to play for last weekend; you could argue that losing to Stanford helped them avoid Oregon while also picking up on tendencies of the Cardinal.
Shaw and the coaching staff must nail into these kids' heads that this game isn't over before it starts. Stanford has played every team in the country close, including No. 1 Notre Dame. The team knows how to win and what it takes to get to the top.
However, UCLA will come out ready for this game. Halftime adjustments and the little things will make-or-break this game for Stanford—the Rose Bowl hangs in the balance.
As the old saying goes, it's hard to beat a team twice in a season.
Stanford struggles to score in the first half and UCLA picks up the emotion with the Rose Bowl on the line. However, the Cardinal know how to win close games—just ask Oregon. A late field goal dooms the Bruins to a lesser bowl with rose stems just inches from their mouths.
Stanford 21, UCLA 20
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.