Jumbo I-formation with two tight ends. Taylor behind Hewitt behind Ertz behind Nunes. Ertz motions to the wing. Snap. Power. Gain of seven. Repeat.
Oh how beautifully ugly it was at Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Stanford’s offense looked Harbaugh-esque. Cal knew exactly what play was coming (Power), and exactly where Stepfan Taylor was going, but couldn’t stop it, allowing the Card to run out the clock in a no-stress Big Game win.
Washington State comes into town this weekend before the Card takes a road trip to Colorado. These next two opponents are the worst in the Pac-12, and it just makes me want to see Power all the more.
Let’s put this into statistical perspective. Against Stanford on Saturday, Cal rushed for three yards on 28 carries, coming out to a pathetic 3.9 inches per carry. The weekend before, when Cal faced Washington State in Pullman, the Golden Bears rushed for 318 yards on 50 carries, or an average of 6.4 yards per carry.
Let me make this very clear: Washington State cannot stop Stanford’s running game. Stanford will move the ball, dominate time of possession and score enough points to win easily. Any other result would be a complete embarrassment and a horrible omen for the tougher games that lie ahead against Oregon State, at Oregon, and at UCLA.
Power alone will not be enough in those tougher games. However, if the Big Game is any indication, Stanford’s offense is exponentially more effective when Power works. I’d love to see quarterback Josh Nunes and the passing game make progress over the next few weeks, but the continuation of Stanford’s success with Power is absolutely vital, and is itself the key to the game.
Stanford Offensive Line vs. WSU Buck Travis Long
Travis Long is a man without a true position. Listed as a buck linebacker by head coach Mike Leach, Long spends his time moving around between defensive line and linebacker. However, no matter where he lines up, Long is a pass rushing menace. Since arriving at Wazzu as a true freshman, Long has started every single game the Cougars have played and consistently produced in those games.
Recruited as a tight end, Long has the athleticism to rush the passer from anywhere on the field, and his pass-rushing techniques take advantage of this. Look for Long to line up at defensive end like Ben Gardner, at outside linebacker like Trent Murphy, or shoot the A-gap on the snap like Shayne Skov.
Stanford does have the pass-blocking talent on the offensive line and in the backfield to stop Long and his 7.5 sacks. The key to doing so will be communication between all of the offensive linemen, and Josh Nunes needs to get the team to the line of scrimmage with enough time for center Sam Schwartzstein and company to identify the correct blocking scheme for Long.
If the offensive line ends up having trouble with Long, look for Stanford to keep Stepfan Taylor in the backfield to block on more passing plays. Taylor is one of the best pass-blocking backs in the country, and definitely could be the one who saves the day when Long runs free.
Stanford Secondary vs. WSU Wide Receiver Marquess Wilson
It seems like every week, Stanford is forced to go up against one of the nation’s top receivers, but that’s life in the 2012 Pac-12. Wilson, a junior, is well on his way to his third-consecutive 1,000-yard season and is always looking for an opportunity to prove his talent.
The last time Stanford hosted Wazzu in 2010, Wilson had a field day against Stanford’s secondary. The First-Team Freshman All-American reeled in six catches for 150 yards, including burning the Card on a 74-yard touchdown reception. Wilson has the talent to go off at any moment, making it vital for Stanford to be completely aware of his position on the field at all times.
Washington State has little to no running game, freeing up Stanford to spend most of its time in the nickel package. Expect Stanford to try to keep Terrence Brown on Wilson as much as possible, and no matter who is matched up on Wilson, look for safeties Jordan Richards and Ed Reynolds to help out over the top.
The game changer in Stanford’s attempt to cover Wilson could be the blitz. Washington State is prone to giving up the sack, and the quicker Stanford’s dominant pass rushers can get to quarterback Jeff Tuel, the less time Wilson has to get open.
Stanford Tight End Zach Ertz vs. WSU Defense
This is the matchup that should have Stanford fans licking their chops. Zach Ertz is having perhaps the best season in the country for a tight end, leading the Cardinal with 31 receptions and 505 receiving yards, while tying Levine Toilolo for the team lead with three touchdown catches.
Ertz’s combination of 6-foot-6-inch frame and basketball player agility presents matchup nightmares for opponents of all levels. Washington State has nobody in its back seven who stands over 6-foot-1. Zach Ertz will be open all game to the good throw.
Now add in Washington State’s struggles in stopping the run, and it starts to get really ugly. The Cougars let Cal run for over 300 yards on the ground in their last outing. Stepfan Taylor will look to simply dominate on the ground and take control of the game.
If Taylor and the rest of Stanford’s running game are successful, it will only add to Zach Ertz’s huge matchup advantage. As Taylor’s rushing yards increase, Washington State’s safeties will creep closer and closer to the line of scrimmage, setting up play-action off of power. Look for Ertz to break a few big receptions off by the end of the third quarter, fully sealing Stanford’s easy win.
Sam Fisher is listed at 6-foot-1 on his driver’s license, but is about as close to 6-foot-1 as Levine Toilolo is to 5-foot-1. Email him reasons why its advantageous to be below average height at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @.