Unlike recent years, the battle for leader in the Pac-12 North race will be played in Seattle as the No. 7 Cardinal (3-0, 2-0 Pac-12) head into a clash of titans on Friday against the rebuilt, Chris Peterson-led Washington Huskies (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12), who are now perched at No. 10 in the latest AP rankings. The top-10 tilt will be the first in Husky Stadium since 1997.
The upcoming game has generated a large buzz for college football fans around the nation who recognize the playoff implications for both schools as well as the overall Pac-12. After being shunned from the Playoff last season, both Stanford and Washington know that one loss could ultimately make the difference for the committee come winter.
Stanford, however, enters Seattle wearing thin after last week’s grueling game against UCLA, as the Cardinal announced that four starters are officially out for this upcoming game. Starting cornerbacks Alijah Holder, a junior, and Quenton Meeks, a sophomore, are both included in Stanford’s injury list, and their absence from the game might prove costly for the Cardinal.
The two corners will definitely be targeted by Huskies quarterback Jake Browning, who has been on a tear to start off the 2016 season, already racking up 14 touchdowns while being intercepted only twice. Almost more impressive, though, is that Browning is 96 passing yards away from hitting the 1,000-yard mark this early in the season.
The Huskies have remained consistently pass-heavy for their first four games as well, which hurts this reeling Stanford secondary, and receiving duo sophomore John Ross and junior Chico McClatcher will look to have big statement games against their Pac-12 North foe.
Stanford will also have to keep an eye on junior Husky running back Lavon Coleman, who tallied a career-best 181 yards in last week’s nailbiter against Arizona. Coleman has only 27 carries on the season, but with his performance in Tuscon, Peterson and his staff will definitely keep him in mind in their offensive playcalling.
On the other side of the field, however, the Cardinal will once again look to star running back junior Christian McCaffrey to have another Heisman-caliber game against a weaker Husky running defense. Although held in check by the Bruins in terms of stopping his usual long runs, McCaffrey needs only to be patient in order to find a hole in this Husky team that gave up 308 yards on the ground to unranked Arizona last week.
Though Stanford doesn’t have a running quarterback like the Wildcats, its overpowering and “most interesting” offensive line should be able to win the battle in the trenches against the Huskies, which could help give some much needed time in the pocket to senior Ryan Burns and possibly junior Keller Chryst, who shared some time with Burns last week.
Both quarterbacks will have to adjust to a packed Husky Stadium that has nearly sold out their 70,000-person-capacity venue. The loud atmosphere can create some challenges for these inexperienced quarterbacks, and whether Husky fans will be able to unnerve the Cardinal passers will inevitably become another test for the visitors.
With Shaw at the helm, Stanford enters into Seattle confident despite being a 3.5-point underdog in Vegas. Whether Stanford can continue its winning streak and keep rolling towards postseason action will be decided Friday night.
Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.