An interesting factoid on the season so far is that the Huskies have faced undefeated teams in their first five games (and thus have dealt the first four teams their first loss on the season). Chances are they'll face another undefeated team next week too. A more important factoid is that the Huskies have yet to trail any of their opponents so far this season. On the one hand, this is encouraging, as it obviously means the Huskies have been good enough to jump out to leads they haven't relinquished at any point. On the other hand, they have yet to face any real adversity this season. In prior years, Sark's teams have often had stretches of adversity - especially on the road - that deflated them, sometimes leading to ugly results (the Arizona and Oregon games last year are two of the best examples). Sark and the team have talked about this group being more mature and focused, and that may be true, but we haven't seen a significant test of this theory yet. This Saturday, they just might.
Stanford started this season slow with lackluster wins over San Jose State and Army, and the thought that the Cardinal were over rated this year gained some credence. Then they demolished Arizona State (for 3 quarters at least) and destroyed WSU, and the over rated talk has faded fast. Their defense is fearsome, their offensive line big, nasty and highly effective, their QB play is highly efficient, and their WR's much improved. When you look at their depth chart, you see impressive size at every position. Where HUNH offenses wear down defenses by speed and superior conditioning, Stanford wears down defenses by physically pummeling them all game.
And yet, against a schedule that Jeff Sagarin has ranked one spot worse than Washington's, it's the Huskies that have posted roughly equal - and in many cases superior - numbers across the board. Folks like to talk about how the Cardinal shut down Oregon's electric offense last year, but that's been the exception. Here are the last 4 point totals allowed to the Ducks by Stanford's defense: 14, 53, 52, 42. And against RichRod's Arizona team last year, they surrendered 48. So the idea that Stanford has cracked the code in how to defend HUNH offenses is overblown.
Make no mistake - Washington can win this game, despite many predictions to the contrary. Will they? That's the big question - does this team have the mental makeup to win a big game on the road against a team that is out for revenge? Can they overcome adversity if they fall behind? The players and coaches have preached "the process" this season and especially this week, and Saturday night will be a huge test. Can the corners keep Ty Montgomery and Devon Cajuste in check? Can the ends get pressure on Kevin Hogan and keep contain so he doesn't bust them for big runs? Can Danny Shelton clog the middle and the linebackers swarm to the ball and tackle well to contain Tyler Gaffney? Can Keith Price make good decisions in a hurry and get the ball in space to his playmakers like Kasen Williams, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jaydon Mickens & John Ross? Can the OL get hats on the Stanford front 7 enough to allow Bishop Sankey to grind them down? It's a very tough task, but as I've noted before, I believe in this team, and I think they make a big statement by pulling out the upset. Call me a 'homer' if you want - I'll understand - but I think the Huskies win: UW 34, Stanford 30
A defensive struggle in the first half keeps the Dawgs close enough to strike enough in the second half to pull off the upset. Keith Price and Bishop Sankey are the difference on offense. The defense is finally noticed nationally. UW 20 - Stanford 16
As magical as the month of September was for UW, I think the Huskies will suffer their first stumble of the season in Palo Alto. Last year's win over Stanford was arguably the high point of the entire year, but any objective observer could see that the Huskies won by playing their absolute best while the Cardinal played, if not their absolute worst, then at least substantially worse than they were capable of. And that was at a game in Seattle! Washington's road struggles over the past few years have been too extensive for me to pick the upset here, especially against a top-five team. That being said, I expect the Huskies to keep fighting for the game's entire 60 minutes, and I think that we will look back at this game and recognize it as a substantial step forward in Washington's ability to hang with elite competition on the road. Washington 17, Stanford 21.