Replacing running back Toby Gerhart was never going to be easy, so Stanford is not even trying.
The Cardinal have pla different look now that Gerhart is with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, using a running back-by-committee approach as quarterback Andrew Luck has become the offensive centerpiece of the team UCLA will face Saturday at the Rose Bowl in a Pac-10 opener for both teams.
The game is at 7:30 and will be shown on ESPN.
Usua Amanam, Stepfan Taylor, Jeremy Stewart, Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson each had at least five carries in Stanford's opening 52-17 rout over Sacramento State while Luck passed for 316 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.
Still, UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel isn't putting much stock in what Stanford did against a Football Championship Subdivision team.
"They’ll have a lot of new things for us which is an advantage for them given that they didn’t have to use anything that they’ve been working on," Neuheisel said.
UCLA, on the other hand, played Big 12 member Kansas State in a tight game that wasn't decided until the final 80 seconds.
"In so being, we had to play with everything we had," Neuheisel said. "There wasn’t a lot we could hold back. A number of teams around the country did not chose to begin that way and so they have the luxury of being able to hold on to some things on their shelves."
Neuheisel said that initial reviews of Stanford's Week 1 game tapes revealed that the Cardinal defense played a nickel package the entire game. Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio who coached alongside Neuheisel when both were on the Baltimore Ravens' staff, is known for running 3-4 defenses.
"He’s a brilliant defensive coach," Neuheisel said. "But he didn’t play one snap of their base defense—or what they’ve said is their base defense--against Sacramento State. "But, as I said, I worked with him. I have a good idea of how they’ll go about it and hopefully we can catch up as the game goes on in terms of schemes."
Neuheisel said he expects Stanford to try and establish a running attack behind a physical offensive line that returns four of the starters who helped spring Gerhart for a nation-leading 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns last season, when he was the Heisman runner-up.
"They love to run the football and they’re effective at it," he said. "They have maybe the most amount of formations with five, six, seven offensive linemen coming at you."
Still, Luck, the sophomore who is considered among the top quarterbacks in the country, is the player UCLA must stop. He passed for 2,575 yards and 13 touchdowns last season and led the Pac 10 with a 143.5 passer rating as Stanford finished second in the conference.
Stanford is vulnerable on defense, however. The Cardinal finished ninth in the Pac 10 in total defense last year and lost safety Bo McNally, its leading tackler the last three seasons. Stanford hasn't won at the Rose Bowl since 1996, a trend that could continue if the Bruins can find consistency in their passing game in order to exploit a weak Stanford secondary.