We conclude our look at Stanford today by examining their special teams capabilities.
Place Kicking: I don't think it's a stretch to say that second-year starter Jordan Williamson became a household name for most college football fans last year, and as is frequently the case for most kickers, it happened for all of the wrong reasons. After making 12 of 15 field goal attempts in the regular season, Williamson made just one of four attempts in the Fiesta Bowl, including missing a potential 35-yard game-winner as time expired in the fourth quarter, and another 43-yard kick that would have given Stanford the lead in the first portion of overtime. That seems to have resulted in a hangover that has affected Williamson's performance in the early stretch of this season as he's made just five of nine attempts in the 2012 season, including a disappointing 0 for 3 performance against USC. History shows that Washington's best path to victory may very well rest on their ability to keep the game close enough to make Stanford try to beat them with clutch place kicking.
Kickoffs: Williamson is also handling kickoff duties for the Cardinal, and has been a beneficiary of the NCAA's new kickoff rules: After tallying just eight touchbacks in all of 2012, he has already accumulated five this season. Stanford's opponents average just 18.5 yards per return, good for 32nd in the nation, so there don't appear to be any glaring weaknesses in this phase of the Cardinal's game.
Punts: Fifth-year senior Daniel Zychlinski is handling punting duties for the Cardinal in 2012, regaining the starting role in a position he claimed in 2010 before taking a back seat to David Green in the final three games of that season, as well as all of 2011. One source of potential hope for Husky fans is that on 14 total punts, Stanford has averaged a very pedestrian 35.8 yard net. Thursday's contest will likely be one that is influenced heavily by momentum, and nothing would get Century Link rocking like seeing Marvin Hall or Jaydon Mickens return one to the house against what appears on paper to be a very mortal punt coverage unit.
Kickoff Returns: True sophomore Ty Montgomery returns as Stanford's primary kickoff returner this year, after averaging more than 25 yards per return and running one back for a touchdown in 2011. He's showed flashes of brilliance so far this year as well, including taking the opening kickoff in the USC game back 64 yards to the opposing 33. The Huskies will have a much easier task ahead of themselves if they can limit their exposure to Stanford's return game and force Josh Nunes to engineer long scoring drives in his first career road start.
Punt Returns: Senior Drew Terrell, like Montgomery, is an explosive player who has already tasted the end zone as a member of Stanford's special teams unit this year. Even discounting that 76-yard scoring jailbreak that game against Duke, Terrell averages nearly 10 yards per return; clearly, he's not a player who opponents can afford to underestimate.