How exactly did Jim Harbaugh transform the perennial doormats of the Pac 12 into a national ranked top ten program in only four short years?
According to UW coach Steve Sarkisian they recruit tall guys with long arms which I guess is fitting for a team known as the Trees. All those tall guys are probably pretty smart too because they don't take dummies at Stanford. Smart and tall guys who like to play a physical brand of smash mouth football pretty much describes the state of the Stanford football program.
Dick Baird said on his show the other day that they are very well coached. He says their practices blow him away. They have the same type of precision in the way they practice and play as DJ's great teams used to have. So a combination of coaching and recruiting the right type of athlete has been there recipe for success.
I personally think the biggest key for Stanford's success has been the consistent high level of recruiting for both the offensive and defensive lines. Harbaugh and Shaw have put together consistent top ranked classes on an annual basis ever since they arrived. They have developed those players into all conference performers and NFL draft choices which keeps attracting the same type of kids.
Stanford plays a smash-mouth style of football that harkens back to the way the Huskies used to play in the 1990's. The Cards run first and ask questions later. They like to hammer the ball on offense the same way LSU does. If you want to beat them you need to take away the run and make them depend on the arm of QB Josh Nunes.
The Stanford offense thrives on balance. When you take away that balance then you have an advantage. Oregon has been the only program to be able to consistently do that over the past five years. UW needs to do that to come away with the win on Saturday.
"To beat Stanford we have to execute and we have to play a brand of football in which we don't have penalties and we play hard and physical, we've got good pad level, we throw and catch the ball, we tackle really well. ... I want to see our pad level right. I want to see us tackling well with the proper technique and form."
So who is going to win this game?
The oddsmakers in Vegas were favoring the Cards by eight points but have dropped it this morning to 6 1/2 which should tempt anyone to bet money on Stanford if they have any type of understanding of the recent history of this series. The Cards have absolutely thrashed the Huskies the past four seasons.
Last years 65-21 drubbing was as ugly as ugly gets so what has changed over the past year to give any of us an indication that this game will be more competitive this time?
- Blackout Thursday Night Road Game on ESPN
- Washington's defense is deeper and improved
- Stanford's quarterback and offense are relatively unproven
- The Tree has a young and inexperienced secondary that Keith Price can exploit
- Washington is overdue to beat a ranked opponent at home
This isn't going to be a high scoring contest unless one of the teams starts making a lot of turnovers. Both offenses have struggled early this season and that should continue to be the case on Thursday night. The team with the most consistent special teams and defensive play will win the game.
What UW needs to do is pick up 4-5 yards on first and second down to avoid obvious passing situations on third and long. Keith Price needs to be mobile and dance out of that pocket because the Stanford front seven is going to be selling out to chase him around all night. Sark needs to come up with the better play calling than he has shown so far this season to help counter that.
ASJ and Kasen need to get open against that young Stanford secondary. They have the type of tools that will cause some mismatches once they get into the Tree defensive backfield. Picking up some points and the lead early will put pressure on the Stanford offense to throw the ball.
As far as the actual prediction goes...well I have gone back and forth on it but I am going to go out on the proverbial limb and pick Washington. I think this is the night that Sark and his team put it all together and beat a team at home that on paper they really shouldn't beat. It happens every week across the country and this week I predict it will be Washington's turn to raise some national eyebrows.
It will be a team victory in which the defense shuts the Cardinal offense down and Husky special teams puts some points up on the board via long returns. Keith Price will be superb as he wills his offense to play mistake free and score enough points to keep the Huskies in the game as they enter the fourth quarter.
The crowd needs to be in this game big time. This is Josh Nunes first road game and he and his team need to suffer from significant hearing loss. He needs to be on his back most of the night muttering the words all "All I saw was
purple black" when he limps back to the sidelines.
Here's the scenario: the Huskies trail 21-14 with eight minutes to go with Stanford driving on the Washington 48. Josh Nunes drops back on a third and six and is intercepted by Shaq Thompson who jumps the route and takes it all the way to the house to tie the game at 21. UW stops Stanford on their next drive.
Keith Price takes over at his own 20 after the touchback with 3:59 to go. He drives the Huskies to Stanford 36. Travis Coons kicks the winning three from 46 as time winds down.
Sheer pandemonium erupts in SODO!