College Gameday may not be in Palo Alto, Calif. this weekend, but that doesn’t make the showdown between the Washington Huskies and Stanford Cardinal any less important. In fact, the winner of this game may have the inside track to represent the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl. If the Oregon Ducks make it to the BCS National Championship game like they are expected to, either Stanford, Washington or the UCLA Bruins have the best shots at the Rose Bowl.
That makes the matchup between the No. 5 and No. 15 teams in the country even more important. Stanford is a seven-point favorite in Vegas and most are picking the Cardinal. But how can the Huskies pull off the upset? Simple. Play a complete game for the first time this season.
Each of the Huskies four wins has been impressive in its own right, but none has included elite quarterback play, running back play, defense, all without amassing ungodly amounts of penalties. If the Huskies are to do this, not only will they win, but it will be by more than last year.
Keith Price had his best game of the season against Illinois, passing for nearly 350 yards with an 80 percent completion percentage and two touchdowns. Bishop Sankey has impressed in each game, but he was arguably at his best in the opener against Boise State. The defense has also performed well in each game except Illinois, with its best performance coming against Boise State, too. In each of those games, penalties plagued the Huskies. But they were nonexistent in the first half against Arizona before rearing their ugly head in the second half.
Take the running game and defensive performance of Boise State, the passing game of Illinois and the discipline of the first half against Arizona, and the Huskies will beat Stanford. Convincingly.
The Huskies will be the toughest test for the Cardinal thus far, just as they will be the Huskies’. What the Huskies can’t do is get overwhelmed. Stanford got out to a 29-0 lead over Arizona State in the first half before ASU made a comeback in the second half to make it respectable.
There are plenty of ingredients into the recipe for success against Stanford – most of them come from last year’s win. Stanford isn’t a team that blows people out. As long as the Huskies don’t flounder in the first half like ASU, they’ll be in the game the whole way. With their new up-tempo offense, Washington can score in a hurry. This game will likely never be out of reach for the Huskies. It could very well come down to whoever has the ball last that wins.
How can the Huskies keep themselves in the game? By playing just like they have, just more disciplined. In the past, Washington has struggled defending spread offenses, but has always been able to find success against pro-style offenses, like Stanford. Though it seems as though the Huskies have fixed their issues defending the spread, too.
The Huskies aren’t going to get rattled on the road. First of all, Stanford Stadium is the least intimidating road environment in the Pac-12. Secondly, the Huskies have a senior leader in Price, and a reliable running game with Sankey. If something isn’t working, they can just turn to the next option. However, to stand a real chance against Stanford, they are going to have to run a balanced offense in order to keep the Cardinal’s dominating defense on its toes.
I’m not predicting a win for the Huskies, but a loss is far from guaranteed. Nevertheless, it will be the most entertaining game of the weekend. Make sure to stop by Husky Haul while you’re watching the game for our first live game thread run by yours truly.