No. 7 Stanford (3-0, 2-0 Pac-12) vs. No. 10 Washington (4-0, 1-0)
John Ross, WR (Jr.) vs. Terrence Alexander, CB (Jr.)
No. 1 cornerback Alijah Holder’s injury, which will keep him out for the Stanford-Washington matchup, could arguably not come at a worse time for Stanford. To beat Washington the Cardinal will have to contain wide receiver John Ross, whom David Shaw recently called “the fastest guy in the conference every time he’s been healthy.” Beside being really fast, Ross is also the Huskies’ top scorer with 7 of the team’s 25 touchdowns. Tasked with limiting Ross is junior corner Terrence Alexander, who while far from inexperienced, will have to step up against a guy as fast as Ross to help eliminate the Huskies’ deep threat.
Ryan Burns, QB (Sr.) vs. Budda Baker, S (Jr.)
Last week, one could argue that Ryan Burns’s arm both nearly lost the game for Stanford and also won it. Burns’ first-quarter interception led to UCLA’s only touchdown of the game, at which point the Bruins took the lead until the 0:24 mark of the fourth quarter. That being said, with just over two minutes to play in the game and no timeouts, Burns put together a clutch final drive, in which he had 5 of his 13 completions on the night as well as 66 of his 137 passing yards, that led to sophomore JJ Arcega-Whiteside’s game-winning touchdown. With its tough secondary — particularly star safety Budda Baker, who, for whatever it’s worth, notched an interception against Stanford last time the two teams met — Washington will look to force Burns to win the game in the air and lure him to make mistakes. And doing so may not be too difficult: Washington has earned an interception in each game of the season, and Burns has thrown one in each of the last two games.
David Shaw vs. Chris Petersen
Thanks to the work of Chris Petersen, Washington has started off the 2016 season with an undefeated record, achieved a top-10 ranking and is a serious Pac-12 title contender (some even have picked them to sneak into the Playoff). Yet a win against the Cardinal is what Petersen and his squad need to legitimize their team and convince the CFB world that the team is worth all the hype it’s received over the past few months. A potential thorn in Petersen’s side is David Shaw, who in his career has gone 20-9 against teams ranked in the AP top 25.
The two coaches’ decision-making on the sideline will no doubt be a factor in this game: Petersen is known for his bold play-calling, while Shaw has historically been more conservative (which, many argue, he exhibited when deciding to punt with 4:40 remaining against UCLA last week; that being said, he’s had his moments). How Shaw manages the game and preps his team to be ready for any tricks Petersen has up his sleeve will play a large part in determining the outcome of this game.
Contact Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu.