By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 13th-ranked Stanford Cardinal are off to their best start since 1970, and they are set to battle the Washington Huskies this weekend in Pac-10 Conference action.
Stanford owns a 6-1 record, as the only loss thus far came to an Oregon squad that currently sits atop the national polls. Last weekend, the Cardinal struggled a bit at home against Washington State, but the result of that tilt was a 38-28 win. Stanford hasn’t scored fewer than 31 points in any game this season, as head coach Jim Harbaugh has a big-time offense at his disposal.
“We did more things right today than they did and got the win,” said Harbaugh after the victory over the Cougars. “Always happy with a win, especially in conference.”
The Huskies haven’t been nearly as successful as the Cardinal so far this season, as Washington owns a 3-4 overall record after losses in two of the last three outings. Last weekend, Steve Sarkisian’s team was crushed on the road by Arizona, 44-14.
“We’ll be OK,” Sarkisian said after the lopsided defeat. “We’re a very resilient group.”
Washington holds a narrow 40-36-4 series advantage over Stanford, but the Cardinal have won the last two meetings.
Stanford is racking up 42.6 ppg and 466.4 total ypg, and the man at the helm of the offense is junior quarterback Andrew Luck. The 6-4 signal caller has completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 1,728 yards and 19 touchdowns against five interceptions. Luck is more than capable of using his feet to avoid the pass rush, and he has actually run for 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The fact that Stanford has only permitted three sacks through seven games is a credit to luck and his offensive line. Doug Baldwin paces the Stanford receivers with 28 catches for 402 yards and six touchdowns, while Stepfan Taylor leads the ground attack with 624 yards and five scores.
The Cardinal rolled up 439 total yards against Washington State en route to five offensive touchdowns. Luck only threw for 190 yards, but he did throw three scoring passes. Taylor ran the ball well in that tilt, gaining 142 yards and two touchdowns on 27 attempts.
“We got the win, and a win is a win,” said Luck. “It was a little disappointing. We were a little sluggish, not sharp. We didn’t get in a rhythm. We are a bit frustrated. We know we can do better.”
Defensively, Stanford is surrendering 24.3 ppg to opponents, as well as 362.3 total ypg. The Cardinal have forced 16 total turnovers and have recorded 17 sacks as well. There is room for improvement against both the run and the pass, as foes are gaining 4.3 yards per rushing attempt and 11.7 yards per pass completion. Shayne Skov has been a solid performer for Stanford, as he has recorded a team-high 38 tackles, including 5.0 TFLs.
The Stanford defense barely spent 22 minutes on the field against Washington State, but 388 yards were surrendered, as well as four passing touchdowns. Sure, the Cardinal did come up with three takeaways, but the overall performance of the defense was a bit lackluster.
Coming into this season, everyone expected Jake Locker and the Washington offense to light up the scoreboard on a regular basis. Unfortunately, that has not been the case as the Huskies are averaging a modest 24.9 ppg and 394.6 total ypg. Locker has only completed 56.5 percent of his passes for 1,614 yards and 14 touchdowns, although his interception total of four is quite low. The big quarterback was expected to do more with his legs as well, as he is averaging just 3.7 yards per rushing attempt and has scored on the ground three times. Chris Polk paces the Washington rushing attack with 636 yards and four scores, while Jermaine Kearse leads the receivers with 41 catches for 670 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Huskies posted only 290 total yards against Arizona last weekend, including a mere 98 yards on 33 rushing attempts. Washington was 4-of-13 on third down conversion attempts and reached the red zone just once in the clash. Locker was sacked four times and finished with 183 passing yards and minus-24 rushing yards.
“You can’t point to one group,” said Locker after the ugly defeat. “It’s on me. It’s on everybody.”
There is certainly room for improvement on the defensive side of the ball for Washington, which is yielding 33.1 ppg and 424.0 total ypg. The Huskies have struggled against the run, as they are permitting five yards per carry and over 200 ypg. Of the 29 touchdowns that they have allowed to opposing offenses, 20 have been rushing scores. There is room for improvement against the pass as well, as Washington has only intercepted five balls and is surrendering nearly 13 yards per completion. Mason Foster leads the Huskies with 82 total tackles, 20 more than his closest teammate.
Arizona moved the ball with ease against the Huskies last week, totaling 467 total yards in that game. Washington surrendered 234 rushing yards at a clip of 5.4 yards per carry, and six touchdowns were permitted by the defense.
Clearly, Stanford is a better team than Washington on both sides of the ball. It is obvious that Locker just doesn’t have enough talent around him to succeed.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Stanford 38, Washington 20