2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 8 - Washington at Stanford
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Oct. 22 at Stanford 65 … Washington 21
CFN Analysis: Now is it time to finally believe that the Cardinal belongs in the national title discussion? Washington might not be LSU, but it’s a good, sound team that was red-hot coming into the game. A few big Chris Polk runs aside, the Cardinal was brilliant, cranking out 615 yards of total offense even though Andrew Luck only threw for 169 yards and two scores. Stepfan Taylor ripped off big runs to match Polk’s production, finishing with 138 yards on just ten carries, and Anthony Wilkerson and Tyler Gaffney also ripping off big runs. This was the first big test, and the hits keep on coming with a trip to USC up next. The Trojans are coming off a big win over Notre Dame, but if the Cardinal lines play like they did against the Huskies, there won’t be any problems coming away with another big win.
The Huskies came into the game with one of the Pac-12’s best run defenses, but they couldn’t keep Stanford from breaking off big run after big run. The line couldn’t get to Andrew Luck, but the bigger problem was trying to keep the Cardinal backs from taking off for big plays, allowing 446 yards and a whopping 10.1 yards per carry. Outside of an interception, Keith Price was strong, and Chris Polk continued to show why he deserves All-America consideration over the second half of the season, but the team failed the test. This was supposed to be when the program proved it was back to being a major player in the Pac-12, but instead it showed how far there is to go. With a newly-pumped up Arizona up next and with Oregon and at USC to follow, UW has to get its focus back, tighten up on the front seven and not miss so many stops, and quickly get over the fact that Stanford really is special.
(AP) STANFORD, Calif. -- Stepfan Taylor knew it would take quite a performance for his fellow running backs to ever overshadow Andrew Luck. Maybe even one for the record books.
With a wild first half that might have been satisfying enough for most teams, Taylor turned to teammate Tyler Gaffney in the locker room and issued a challenge.
"I told Gaffney," Taylor said, "let's try to get 500 out here."
Taylor, Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson powered Stanford (No. 8 BCS, No. 7 AP) to a school-record 446 yards rushing to blow past Washington (No. 25 BCS, No. 22 AP) 65-21 on Saturday night in the Cardinal's most impressive victory all season.
The running backs gave the Heisman Trophy hopeful some rest as Stanford (7-0, 5-0 Pac-12) extended the nation's longest winning streak to 15 games. Taylor ran for 138 yards, Gaffney 117 yards and Wilkerson 93 yards to break the previous team mark of 439 in a victory over Oregon State in 1981.
"We were very aware of it when we broke it," Luck said. "What a testament to the o-line, to the coaches, to the tight ends, to the receivers. It was a total team effort on the ground, and most of all to the backs making it happen."
Facing the first ranked opponent of the season, Stanford pounded the Huskies (5-2, 3-1) in a critical Pac-12 North matchup.
Chris Polk ran for scores from 46 and 61 yards in the first half to keep Washington close early. He finished with 144 yards rushing as the Cardinal's defense clamped down.
Luck threw for 169 yards and two touchdowns and completed 16 of 21 passes but took a back seat -- for once -- to a running game that has quietly been among the nation's best the last few years. No matter what happens next week at Southern California, the victory almost guarantees that the Nov. 12 matchup against Oregon at Stanford Stadium will decide the North's representative in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.
Not a bad time for the Cardinal to fly south to the Coliseum.
"They are a good football team for a reason and why they do what they do and have been on a run they're on," Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said. "They wear you out and they wear you down."
With three running backs leading the way, Washington couldn't stop any of them.
Taylor and Gaffney each ran for a touchdown and Wilkerson had two, including a 38-yard scamper with 1:25 remaining in the fourth quarter that snapped the record set back when John Elway was the Cardinal's quarterback.
Stanford coach David Shaw practically apologized for the late score, admitting he just hoped to run out the clock with the backups in the game.
"You can't tell a runner not to run," Shaw said.
A week after a poor first-half showing at Washington State, Stanford started with a 76-yard drive on six plays capped by Jeremy Stewart's 2-yard TD run. Jordan Williamson kicked the first of his three field goals from 39 yards to put the Cardinal ahead 10-0.
Polk broke two tackles up the sideline on 41-yard touchdown run for his first score. Then he sprinted untouched through the middle for 61 yards to bring the Huskies within 17-14 early in the second quarter.
Just when it seemed the Cardinal might finally be tested, they ran away from yet another opponent.
Taylor ripped through a seem on Stanford's next play from scrimmage, running 70 yards for a touchdown without receiving so much as a hand swipe. Luck followed by connecting with Drew Terrell from 5 yards out for his second touchdown pass to give the Cardinal a 31-14 lead.
"They left a guy open. I just missed him. It was kind of just unfortunate," Price said of the interception. "It's embarrassing anytime you lose like this."
In a half where the offenses ran wild, the biggest play might have come on defense.
Michael Thomas broke the game open when he stepped in front of a receiver over the middle and picked off a pass from Price. He raced 62 yards down the sideline, stepping over the diving quarterback to put Stanford ahead 38-14 at the break.
The Huskies, who were shutout 41-0 by Stanford last year in Seattle, had entered the Top 25 for the first time in two seasons this week behind Price, who entered game tied with Boise State's Kellen Moore for second in the country with 21 touchdown passes. Price's 2-yard TD pass to Evan Hudson that came early in the third quarter came with the game already a blowout.
Stanford still led 48-21 after the score, which was Hudson's first career reception. While Price was sacked only twice, he was under constant pressure. The sophomore finished with 247 yards passing.
Gaffney, anchoring the wildcat formation, had runs of 14 and 34 yards before capping off Stanford's first drive of the second half with a 4-yard TD. Taylor and Gaffney became the 10th running back duo in school history to rush for 100-yard running games.
"I think that will be something special down the road for guys to look back on," Luck said. "Hopefully it's broken next week."
Washington (5-1) at Stanford (6-0) Oct. 22, 8:00, ABC/ESPN
Here’s The Deal … Washington is back in the Top 25 with its highest ranking in eight years. Good for you, Huskies. Good for you, Stanford, as well.
Oddly enough, U-Dub’s good fortune has been the Cardinal’s as well. Stanford has been pining for a ranked opponent between now and the much-anticipated Nov. 12 visit from Oregon in order to beef up a weak first-half schedule. The program has plowed through the weakest part of the slate by an average score of 45-11, mostly drawing blank stares from discerning voters and computer models. A sizzling visitor from Seattle is a well-timed gift for the nation’s No. 8 team in the maiden BCS rankings.
Go ahead and pencil in Washington as one of the nation’s biggest surprises of the first two months. Head coach Steve Sarkisian has been doing nice things on Montlake, but conventional preseason wisdom suggested that the program might be in store for a dip in the first year after the graduation of transformational QB Jake Locker. Uh-uh. The Huskies have actually been better than at any time during Locker’s tenure, comfortably winning three straight Pac-12 games over Cal, Utah and Colorado. With a heifer-sized upset on the Farm this Saturday night, they’ll instantly become contenders for the North Division title.
Why Washington Might Win: Sarkisian has done a wonderful job with the offense, seamlessly working in Keith Price at quarterback. The sophomore has been a microcosm for the Huskies’ improbable success, throwing no fewer than three touchdown passes in any single game. He’s done a remarkable job of spreading the wealth around to the likes of receivers Devin Aguilar, Jermaine Kearse and James Johnson, and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
The existence of a potent passing game has also been a boon to RB Chris Polk, who’s found substantial running room as he’s bullied his way to 728 yards and three touchdowns. The Cardinal, sans injured top inside LB Shayne Skov, has yet to face an attack with nearly as many weapons as the one set to arrive from Washington.
Why Stanford Might Win: While the Washington D has improved, its progress has been made against mediocre offenses. The last time that it hit the road to face a quality team, it yielded 464 yards and six touchdowns to Nebraska. And no Pac-12 team is allowing more yards per game than the Huskies. Without even having to gun the engine at any point in 2011, the Cardinal is norming close to 46 points per game.
QB Andrew Luck is just itching at the chance to remind the nation why he’s considered the best all-around player at this level. With time to throw, he’ll carve up the Washington pass defense, with help from WR Chris Owusu and tight ends Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo. Keeping the Huskies honest will be RB Stepfan Taylor, a tough, between-the-tackles runner who’s gone for 100 yards in three of the last four games.
What To Watch Out For: The Cardinal defense has been very good all year, but will it be good enough to sidetrack a Huskies offense that’s yet to score less than 30 points in a game in 2011? One of the two is going to flinch this weekend. Stanford’s defensive numbers are Alabama-like, including a top 5 ranking in sacks, run defense and total D.
With the exception of maybe LB Chase Thomas, there’s not much star power on a unit that’s as much a collaborative effort as anything else. In fact, the Cardinal doesn’t have a single player who ranks in the top 50 in tackles … in the conference. It’ll be interesting to see how this unit reacts to the speed and size of the Washington skill position players.
What Will Happen: Washington will score. Stanford will simply score more. The Cardinal has yet to be tested, but it also hasn’t been pushed to deliver an “A” game in order to remain perfect. The team will begin to approach its full potential now that the stakes are about to get higher.
This is the type of game that’ll educe the best from Luck, a big-game performer who’s been pining for a grander stage. He’ll have an answer for every Washington scoring drive, calmly guiding his team back downfield with precision and efficiency. By the time the fourth quarter begins, Stanford will have salted away its seventh win of the year.
CFN Prediction: Stanford 42 … Washington 24
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Stanford -21 O/U: 61
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