2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 3 - Stanford at Arizona
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Sept. 17 Stanford 37 ... Arizona 10
CFN Analysis: It took a little while, and it wasn't always breathtaking, but the Cardinal offense was brutally effective in a road blowout. The defense was tough and bruising, stuffing the Arizona running game and not allowing the game to get all that close even after the ten points allowed in the second quarter. The offensive line beat up the Arizona defense front, and Andrew Luck was Andrew Luck in an efficient, mistake-free performance. As good as the win was, the Cardinal suffered a bad loss with linebacker Shayne Skov getting knocked out with a knee injury, and the initial word is that it might be a season ender. Even with his loss, it should be smooth sailing over the next several games. If the Cardinal can keep playing this smart and this tough, there's nothing to worry about until – possibly – the date at USC in late October.
Arizona needs to be better than this at home. In the second straight embarrassing loss, the Wildcats followed up the blowout loss to Oklahoma State by getting brutalized by Stanford both on the ground and with the short to midrange passing game. There wasn't any running game to count on, and Nick Foles wasn't able to come up with enough big plays to turn the tide in the second half. Marquis Flowers made 16 tackles, but the front seven didn't do its job to bother Andrew Luck to throw off the Cardinal offense. Up next is Oregon at home, and if the linebackers play like they did this week, it'll be another blowout.
(AP) TUCSON, Ariz. -- Andrew Luck dinked and dunked passes, winged a few into impossibly tight spots. Stepfan Taylor churned out yards, more than he ever had. The big, powerful line seemed to get better and more bruising as the game wore on.
Balanced and efficient, Stanford was a lot like Arizona would like to be -- heck, any team would like to be at this point.
Luck threw for 325 yards and had both of his touchdown passes in the second half, Taylor ran for a career-high 153 yards and the sixth-ranked Cardinal pulled away for a 37-10 victory over Arizona on Saturday night in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
"Certainly, they know what they're doing," Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. "They manipulated us pretty good."
Struggling to find the end zone in the first half, Stanford (3-0) wore Arizona down in the second.
Luck picked the Wildcats apart on 20-of-31 passing, throwing touchdown passes to Zach Ertz in the third quarter and Levine Toilolo in the fourth. Stanford shut Arizona out in the second half and had a balanced 567 yards overall to win its 11th straight game, the Cardinal's longest run since taking 13 straight from 1939-41.
"We challenged our guys to take the fight to them, challenged our guys to be physical and see if we can wear them out," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "That's our philosophy we believe in: our second half has got to be better than our first half, (and) that's what we did tonight."
Nick Foles threw for 239 yards and a touchdown, but couldn't overcome Arizona's struggling offensive line by himself.
The junior hit 24 of 33 passes, but was sacked five times and the Wildcats (1-2), one of the nation's worst rushing teams, had another anemic game on the ground, netting just 51 yards rushing on 23 carries in their sixth straight loss to an FBS team.
"Our inability to have some balance in our offense will continue to keep from us becoming a good football team," Stoops said.
Stanford rolled through its first two games, outscoring San Jose State and Duke by a combined score of 101-17. Luck, not surprisingly, was the catalyst, throwing for 461 yards and six touchdowns with one interception.
Playing Arizona in the desert figured to be a stiffer challenge for the Cardinal.
The Wildcats have one of the nation's best quarterbacks in Foles, who, like Luck, figures to be a first-round NFL draft pick. The 6-foot-5 senior doesn't have the polish that Luck has, but is prolific, completing 76 percent of his passes for 810 yards and six touchdowns the first two games.
Arizona also sent Stanford home with a disappointing loss in its last trip to Tucson, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter for a 43-38 comeback victory.
That was just two years ago, but it seems like forever with the direction these teams have headed since.
The Cardinal rolled over the Wildcats 42-17 last season behind Luck's 293 yards and two touchdowns. Luck may be even better this season and Arizona struggled against a good passer last week, allowing Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden to pick it apart for 397 yards and two touchdowns in a 17-point loss.
The Wildcats also have been one-dimensional on offense, relying almost solely on Foles while the running game has averaged just 58 yards per game, 115th in the nation. Stanford was second nationally through the first two games, allowing 28.5 yards per game, so it was weakness against strength.
And, though it wasn't pretty at times, the game turned out about how you might think.
Arizona again had trouble running the ball -- minus-6 yards on 10 carries in the first half -- but Foles made up for it, completing his first 17 passes while throwing for 198 yards and a touchdown. The score went on a 6-yard pass to Juron Criner, who showed no ill effects from the appendectomy that kept him out of last week's game against Oklahoma State.
The Wildcats kept it close, but could have been closer: Jaime Salazar missed field goals to end the second quarter and start the third, making him 1-for-4 on the season after Arizona was haunted by missed kicks a year ago.
"We need to get points in those spots," Foles said. "It's like missing a wide-open layup."
Stanford's kicking game worked just fine -- Jordan Williamson hit from 20, 45 and 33 yards -- but the Cardinal wanted touchdowns after getting so deep into Arizona's end. The only one Stanford got came late in the first quarter, when Anthony Wilkerson scored on a 24-yard run on a fourth-and-a-foot misdirection play.
Leading 16-10 after one half, Stanford stomped the Wildcats down in the second.
Luck hit tight end Ertz on a 16-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, then had two choices to open the fourth quarter on a defensive breakdown by Arizona. He settled on Toilolo (he was deeper), who scored easily on a 34-yard pass to put the Cardinal up 30-10.
That's seven touchdowns to tight ends -- out of nine -- this season for Stanford and 53 TDs overall for Luck, moving him one ahead of Jim Plunkett for third all-time in Stanford history.
Stanford closed it out with a drive that took nearly seven minutes, capped by Jeremy Stewart's 2-yard TD run.
"Tonight, we started off very slow, but came in toward the second half," Taylor said. "Those big plays helped us out a lot."
Stanford (2-0) at Arizona (1-1) Sept. 17, 10:45, ESPN
Here's The Deal … The Pac-12 schedule is preparing for lift-off. The Arizona program, however, is not. All of the Wildcats' preseason concerns were exposed to a national audience in Thursday night's embarrassing 37-14 loss to Oklahoma State. No, they weren't supposed to win in Stillwater, but getting mauled by the Cowboys for the second time in the last three games has put the program—and Mike Stoops—in a precarious position. By losing five straight games to FBS opponents, the head coach is once again the target of frustrated fans and critics. Stanford cruised through its first two games against San Jose State and Duke, dominating as if it was still 2010. However, the Cardinal and its new coach David Shaw have yet to be tested this month. A trip to Tucson to play in front of an agitated crowd will help the staff learn a lot about its players. If Stanford can roll here, it might not be seriously challenged again until the Oct. 29 trip south to USC.
Why Stanford Might Win: When paired with a dynamic offense last week, the Arizona defense wilted, yielding almost 600 yards to Oklahoma State. The Cardinal has the tools to be every bit as abusive as the Cowboys. QB Andrew Luck will endure little resistance from the Wildcats pass rush or pass defense. Setting up behind imposing RG David DeCastro and LT Jonathan Martin, he'll get the time needed to find WR Chris Owusu or one of his many talented tight ends. Physical RB Stepfan Taylor is around to ensure that the attack never becomes predictable or one-dimensional. Don't count on the Wildcats fulfilling their desire to run the ball better. Stanford has the nation's No. 2 run defense, allowing less than a yard a carry.
Why Arizona Might Win: If you're going to beat Stanford these days, it'll likely be through the air. The Wildcats can handle that edict. With no running game to speak of, Arizona has become content to let QB Nick Foles stretch out his arm on a regular basis. In a showdown with Luck, he'll delight in an opportunity to air it out and challenge the Cardinal secondary. Through two games, the senior has thrown six touchdown passes without a pick, getting comfortable with receivers Austin Hill and Dan Buckner as star Juron Criner recovers from a recent appendectomy. Still questionable, Criner would be a huge addition to the aerial assault if he can obtain medical clearance.
What To Watch Out For: As Arizona hunts for more balance and diversity on offense, it could be time to take the wraps off true freshman RB Ka'Deem Carey. Starter Keola Antolin is a solid player, but the Wildcats, whose line is adjusting to five new starters, are in need of a back who can make some yards on his own. Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, nothing on the ground will come easy against this Stanford D. It's aggressive and physical at the point of attack, consistently getting big plays from linebackers Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas.
What Will Happen: The atmosphere will be charged for the arrival of a top 10 conference opponent. And the home team will play with very little to lose. This is a dangerous game for Stanford. Arizona will play fast and loose, staying with its ranked visitor for the first half. However, the Cardinal has the best player in the country and enough of a talent disparity to survive the challenge. It'll build a cushion over the final 30 minutes to capture a double-digit win.
CFN Prediction: Stanford 41 … Arizona 28
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Stanford -10 O/U: 54.5
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