This Friday, Stanford football (6-1, 5-2) hosts No. 9 Washington Huskies (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) in Stanford Stadium. The Cardinal need a win in order to keep their hopes of winning the Pac-12 North alive. Washington needs a win so it has a shot at the College Football Playoffs.
Stanford also wants revenge for last year’s 44-6 loss.
With those stakes in mind, let’s break down what to look for in this week’s game.
Washington comes to the game as the No. 1 defense in college football in terms of yards allowed per game. They average 11.1 points allowed per game, second only to Alabama, the No. 1 team in the country. For contrast, Stanford ranks 33rd in scoring defense, averaging 21.3 points allowed per game.
However, Washington comes in with an average of 38.6 points per game, while the Cardinal averages 33.7. Something’s got to give here, on both sides.
For Washington, their playmakers are their defense. To be fair, they haven’t played many great teams this season, but the Washington program has prided itself on a strong defense for years. Head Coach Chris Petersen explained, “If you’re going to have a good team, to me it’s always going to start out on defense.”
David Shaw agreed about their prowess, saying, “they don’t give up big plays, they don’t give up touchdowns, ” calling the Washington defense, “extremely well-coordinated, this group’s as good as we’ve seen since we’ve been here.”
Washington hasn’t allowed an offensive play longer than 36 yards yet this season.
On the opposite side of the field, Bryce Love has a run of at least 52 yards in every game this season, and is averaging 50.7 yards per scoring play over the course of his career. If he can find a hole in this Husky defense, he could add a lot of yardage to their yards allowed per game.
In terms of the rest of the Stanford offense, David Shaw said that he is looking to “do a better job of mixing it up.” He announced KJ Costello as starter this week, and with variety in mind, Stanford should call some more passes to the tight ends, or potentially option plays. Switching it up could be the difference between a stifled offense and an explosive one, like Stanford was known for.
Regarding offense, Washington has a star running back of their own in Myles Gaskin, who ran for 123 yards on 17 carries against Oregon last Saturday. They also have Lavon Coleman, who can switch out for Gaskin should he need a break. Stanford has been inconsistent against the rush in the past and needs to stay strong on the line in order to keep big plays from happening.
On the other hand, the Stanford secondary is stout, and even with the loss of Alijah Holder, Alameen Murphy proved a valuable replacement, with David Shaw saying, “ he’s one of those guys that knows the game plan so well he’s always gonna be in position.” Justin Reid has been a star in nearly every game this season, and can continue to do so.
Washington quarterback Jake Browning will have his hands full if the Stanford line can pressure him into making quick, and dangerous, decisions.
Both teams have a short week this week, with Stanford coming off of a 24-21 loss to Washington State on Saturday, while the Huskies beat Oregon 38-3 on the same day.
Despite Stanford’s loss this weekend, and their loss to Washington last year, that’s not what the team is focused on this week.
“It’s the best team in the conference coming into our house, so we don’t have time to wallow, we don’t have time to lament,” said Shaw. “We gotta get ready to go.”
Contact Ariana Rollins at arianar ‘at’ stanford.edu.