STANFORD -- The latest in a series of sizzling October Saturdays in the Pac-12 matches ninth-ranked UCLA against No. 13 Stanford.

The teams are familiar with each other, having collided twice at the end of last season. But neither knows the updated version as well as Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.

Whittingham has done more than break down video of current personnel. He got up close and personal with the Bruins and Cardinal in the past two weeks.

"Both teams are loaded with talent, both teams are very balanced (offensively), both play stingy defense, and both are very sound on special teams," said Whittingham, whose Utes lost to UCLA (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) by a touchdown and upset Stanford (5-1, 3-1). Both games were in Salt Lake City.

"It will be a classic matchup. I couldn't pick winner. But like a lot of games that are evenly matched, turnovers will be a big part of it. There's a tremendous talent level, and they're exceptionally well-coached."

Pressed for particulars, Whittingham honed in on the game-within-the-game between UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley and Stanford's defensive front.

Hundley, a potential top-10 pick in the NFL draft, is 13th in the nation in passing efficiency but, like Oregon's Marcus Mariota, is equally effective with his legs. His 36-yard touchdown run sealed UCLA's victory over the Utes.

Stanford's front seven has been less than dominant in recent weeks, partly because of depth issues on the line that prompted starting tight end Luke Kaumatule to join the rotation.


Advertisement

"(Whittingham) hit it right on the head," Cardinal coach David Shaw said. "Can we defend a quarterback who flips the ball outside quickly, which is what (Utah) did against us; a quarterback who can hand the ball off and make it look like he's got the ball and also keep the ball and hurt you with his legs?

"There's a reason all the NFL scouts are talking about Hundley. He's a dynamic, big, strong, athletic quarterback who looks like the guys who are doing great at the next level. That's the key to the game: Can we contain him?"

Whittingham also pointed to special teams as an area of interest. Stanford's Ty Montgomery has returned kickoffs for touchdowns in each of the past two games.

If the Bruins opt to kick short and force a fair catch, Stanford won't complain -- that approach would likely lead to prime field position.

"I mentioned turnovers," Whittingham said, "but it may also come down to a play or two on special teams. We'll see how it shakes out."

Two injuries could affect the outcome:

  • Hundley had help against Stanford in a three-point loss in the Pac-12 title game: Johnathan Franklin, who's now in the NFL, rushed for 194 yards.

    His replacement, Jordon James, was the nation's fifth-leading rusher until suffering a sprained ankle in the victory at Utah. He's questionable for Saturday.

  • Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson, who hit the game-winner in the Pac-12 championship game and is 9 of 10 inside 50 yards this season, has a leg injury.

    Shaw called it a "tweak" and declined to provide further details; he categorized Williamson as questionable. The backup kicker is redshirt freshman Conrad Ukropina.

    For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at jwilner@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5716.

    SATURDAY'S GAME
    UCLA (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) at Stanford (5-1, 3-1), 12:30 p.m. ABC