No. 15 Washington at No. 5 Stanford
Saturday, 10:30 PM, ESPN
Line: Stanford -7
A team’s fortunes can turn very quickly in college football. You just need that inciting incident that forces a change to occur.
For Stanford football, it was a loss to a fairly mediocre Washington football team at CenturyLink Stadium in 2012. The Cardinal struggled on offense, with their vaunted power running game managing to accumulate only 65 yards on the ground in a 17-13 defeat to the Huskies.
After that game, head coach David Shaw made a change at quarterback and inserted Kevin Hogan. The Cardinal have not lost a game since.
It is safe to assume that the Cardinal coaching staff and players do not want a repeat of last year’s showing, especially this Saturday night on The Farm.
Washington, though, has undergone some growth of its own since last season, installing a high tempo spread offense that has shown the versatility to beat people through the air or on the ground. But Stanford has proven that it can stop high tempo spread offenses before.
With the Pac-12 North shaping up to be a three or even four team race, divisional games are going to mean that much more this season.
For Stanford to win: Be explosive. Stanford’s identity up until this season had been pounding the ball on the ground and hitting a bevy of tight ends on short crosses and intermediate routes. Now, though, Stanford is using the running game to set up deep play action passes. Utilizing the wide receivers on the roster to get deep for big plays could make the difference in a game that might set up as a bit of a defensive struggle.
For Washington to win: Diversify. Stanford wants to be physical at the point of attack. Washington, on offense, is going to have to try and create as much confusion as possible in order to keep the Cardinal off balance. Washington had to lean heavily on the running game last week due to the bad weather in Seattle, so there is more recent film on that aspect of their offense. Washington, utilizing their tempo, might want to come out and try to throw the ball via play action off of some of their better running plays in order to sow some seeds of doubt about what exactly the Huskies are doing on offense.
Key Player, Stanford: Kevin Hogan, quarterback. Hogan, who is 9-0 since taking over after the Washington game last season, is a difference maker. Hogan’s mobility and his arm allows Stanford to do a lot more on offense than they did under former quarterback Josh Nunes. It still might be too early to start Andrew Luck comparisons, but Hogan does have the ability to be a difference maker. If he were to go out of the game with an injury, it seems like Stanford might struggle again against Washington.
Key Player, Washington: Bishop Sankey, running back. Sankey is leading the nation in rushing at 151.8 yards per game, and that is factoring in the game against Idaho State where he had only four carries. If Washington is able to get some big plays early through the passing game and run enough plays in the first half, then Sankey could come through in the second half against a tired Cardinal defense and wreak havoc on the ground.
Key Stat: 5-0. Both teams are trying to start the season 5-0. For Stanford, it would be their second 5-0 start in the last three seasons. For Washington, it would be their first 5-0 start since 1992.