No. 15-ranked Stanford is well into preparation for Thursday night's nationally televised game football game on ESPN against 18th-ranked UCLA at Stanford Stadium. Both teams are coming off byes.
In their last outings, the Cardinal (4-1, 3-0) defeated Arizona, 55-17, while the Bruins (4-1, 1-1) lost at Arizona State, 38-23.
The only common opponent they have played is Arizona, and each had their way. UCLA downed the Wildcats, 56-30.
Stanford, which has regrouped with four straight wins after a season-opening loss at Northwestern, has beaten UCLA seven consecutive times, the most recent coming in last season's regular-season finale at the Rose Bowl when the Cardinal rolled to a 31-10 victory against the ninth-ranked Bruins, denying them the Pac-12 South Division title.
During Stanford's even-game win streak over the Bruins, Stanford has outscored UCLA, 221-96.
While the Cardinal offense has sizzled the last 3 1/2 games, scoring 31, 41, 42 and 55 points, respectively, head coach David Shaw welcomed the off week to get players healthy -- notably fifth-year senior quarterback Kevin Hogan. Hogan sprained his ankle in the season's third game against USC but has continued to perform at a high level. Hogan now ranks seventh in the NCAA in passing efficiency at 169.8 and has completed 79 percent of his throws in the past three games.
Martinez leads nation
Although Stanford has played one less game than most teams, senior inside linebacker Blake Martinez leads the nation in tackles for the second week in a row, averaging 12.5 tackles/game. Sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey dropped one spot to No. 2 in all-purpose rushing, averaging 229.80 yards/game. Tyler Ervin of San Jose State is the leader at 231.17.
"That's definitely a cool stat, but it can't be done without all our guys coming together and working towards one goal," said McCaffrey.
Still talking about 'The Block'
McCaffrey is still marveling about the block thrown by sophomore quarterback Keller Chryst against Arizona. After pitching to McCaffrey, Chryst charged around the right end and pancaked a Wildcat defender to spring his running back for a big gain.
"It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen," McCaffrey said. "I knew he was the lead blocker on that play -- it was a designed play -- and I saw him de-cleat the guy … I froze, I was so excited. When it happened, I almost stuttered. That just goes to show you the toughness of everyone on our team, even our quarterbacks."
It should be noted that Chryst, a former Palo Alto High standout, is 6-5, 233 pounds.
"He's a quarterback, but I wouldn't want him running into me," said McCaffrey.
Among the stat leaders
In other statistical categories, McCaffrey ranks 21st nationally in rushing yards with 601. Sophomore Paul Perkins of UCLA ranks 30th with 572 and has scored seven touchdowns.
Cardinal fifth-year senior running back Remound Wright is tied for 19th in rushing touchdowns with seven and also has a scoring reception. He continues to shine in short yardage and goal line situations, finding creases, bouncing outside or jumping over the top of players.
"The offensive line does a great job, the tight ends do a great job, and from that, it's just really feel," said Wright. "Sometimes we come in the next day and watch film and Coach (Lance) Taylor asks me, 'How did you see that?' I never really see much of anything. I feel what's around me and then try and go from there."
Controling the ball
Shaw is very pleased with Stanford's ability to control the ball on offense. Through five games, the Cardinal ranks third in the country in time of possession and have committed only three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble).
However, he would like to see his defense become more opportunistic. Stanford has only three takeaways thus far with two fumble recoveries and one interception.
Hall of Fame
On Friday, eight former student-athletes and coaches will be inducted into the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame at a private reception. They are: Matt Gentry '05 (wrestling), Alex Karakazoff '77 (football), Ogonna Nnamani '05 (women's volleyball), Kyle Peterson '97 (baseball), Nicole Powell '04 (women's basketball), Rick Schavone (diving coach), Tara Kirk '04 (women's swimming) and Dana Sorensen '04 (softball). All will be honored at halftime on Thursday night.
"He's one of the unsung heroes on our team right now." - David Shaw on sophomore fullback Daniel Marx.