Entering the game with a perfect 4-0 record, the Stanford Cardinal will face by far their toughest test of the season, taking on a No. 15-ranked Washington Huskies team. Washington upset Stanford last year, so the Cardinal will be hungry for redemption.
While everyone figured the Pac-12 North would come down to the matchup between Stanford and Oregon next month, Washington has proven so far this year that it too is a force to be reckoned with. After blowing out a ranked Boise State squad to open the season, the Huskies have won three more games to reach the 4-0 mark.
In 2011 and 2012, it was a tale of two quarterbacks for Keith Price. The Washington signal-caller was fantastic in 2011, and entered the 2012 season as a dark horse Heisman candidate. However, inconsistent play crippled Price and his team a season ago.
So far in 2013, the 2011 version of Price has returned. He has been fantastic, completing 72 percent of his passes for 1,044 yards and nine touchdowns to only two interceptions.
Stanford’s top priority must be shutting Price down. The front seven, led by Ben Gardner, Trent Murphy, and Shayne Skov, will need to get pressure on him early and often in order to make him uncomfortable and force the kind of errors he made in 2012.
Last season, Washinton’s offensive line was often quite porous, allowing 38 sacks during the season. This year, however, the Huskies front wall has been much improved, allowing only three sacks through four games. Stanford’s defense must win this battle up front.
However, Washington can beat you in more than one way. Running back Bishop Sankey propelled himself into the Heisman conversation last week, posting 161 yards on an astounding 40 carries. He is a very balanced back that can hurt defenses in a number of ways.
Stanford’s run defense looks to have what it takes to stop Sankey. Since giving up over 200 yards on the ground to Army, the Cardinal allowed only 50 and 51 yards rushing to Arizona State and Washington State respectively. They must continue that success to contain Sankey.
On the other side of the ball, Washington has displayed a much improved pass defense, currently sitting atop the Pac-
12 stat sheets in that category. Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan needs to do what he does best – protect the ball, extend plays, and move it down the field. He cannot afford to make mistakes in this game.
Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson have been very impressive on the ground this year, filling in nicely in the wake of Stepfan Taylor’s departure. In order to keep the offense multi-dimensional, these two must move the ball effectively and help take some of the pressure off of their quarterback.
This should be one of the best conference showdowns of the season, and both teams have plenty of weapons to display. The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. PT, so be sure to tune in for this Pac-12 North clash.