Coming off of a tough 17-13 loss to an unranked Washington team last Thursday, the No. 18 Stanford Cardinal will head back to Palo Alto this weekend to take on the Arizona Wildcats.
Despite their loss to the Huskies, Stanford has a strong team, and is still very much in contention for a Pac-12 title. However, a bounce-back win over Arizona is extremely important for the Cardinal if they want to remain at the top of the conference standings.
After a shaky performance in Seattle, quarterback Josh Nunes will be looking to improve this week and regain his confidence. Lucky for him, Arizona has the ninth-ranked pass defense in the Pac-12, allowing 284 yards per game through the air so far this season.
Running back Stepfan Taylor will also be hoping to rediscover his groove on the ground after being held to only 75 rushing yards on 21 carries a week ago. Like Nunes, Taylor has a nice matchup, and will likely be able to exploit a weak Wildcat run defense that has allowed six touchdowns and 166 yards per game in 2012.
Probably the most exciting matchup to keep an eye on will be Stanford’s front seven against quarterback Matt Scott and the Arizona offense. The Cardinal have the best run defense in the conference, allowing only 65 yards per game so far this season, and also have some of the best pass-rushers in the nation.
While the Wildcats are ranked second and third in the Pac-12 in passing and rushing offense respectively, Stanford’s defense will be ready. The Cardinal put relentless pressure on USC’s Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterback Matt Barkley all night when they squared off against the Trojans two weeks ago, rendering him almost entirely ineffective for four quarters.
If they can get through one of the strongest offensive lines in the country to shut down Matt Barkley, then the Cardinal should be able to quiet an offense that has already allowed nine sacks this season.
Looking at these two teams head-to-head, it appears that the Cardinal should have no problem redeeming last week’s loss should they take advantage of the right matchups. Look for the Cardinal to regain their confidence with a solid performance at home against Arizona on Saturday.