When Washington heads to the Bay area on September 26th most feel the team will have a 1-2 record and be licking its wounds from thumpings at home from LSU, and USC. The Cardinal contest is a must win on the schedule since it gives the Huskies a shot at evening its record before heading back to South Bend to play Notre Dame.
The Cardinal know what it is like to have to crawl out of the cellar. That is exactly what they have been doing ever since coach Jim Harbaugh arrived on the scene three years ago. The Tree fell short of a bowl bid last season by one game. The goal this season is to win 6-7 games and finish the season some place sunny. Most feel that Stanford is a good bet to do that since Harbaugh has recruited exceptionally well since arriving on the scene.
Stanford welcomes back eight starters on offense and seven on defense. Harbaugh has rebuilt the team from the bottom up by recruiting well.
For Stanford to reach the next level they need to start moving the ball more through the air to balance the attack. Tavita Pritchard returns at QB but he may not be able to hold off Andrew Luck who has the better arm. Toby Gerhart returns at RB after piling up 1136 yards last season. He has a great nose for the end zone scoring 15 times last season. Stanford needs more production from a passing attack that ranked 103rd nationally last season and had four more interceptions than touchdowns.
The Tree returns eight starters on a defense that is definitely on the upswing. Linebacker Clinton Snyder has all league potential and is the leader of the defense, but the strength should be up front. Defensive ends Tom Keiser and Erik Lorig are capable of wreaking havoc in the backfield and tackles Brian Bulcke and Ekom Udofia are both upperclassmen. Pat Maynor and Wopamo Osaisai both have graduated so Stanford has some major holes to fill to replace those two standouts.
The Cards need to improve their defensive backfield after giving up over 150 yards in passing per game last season. Safety Bo Mc Nally returns and he is solid but he needs some help back there if the Tree is going to improve on being 9th in Pac 10 pass defense. The Cardinal yielded 18 touchdown passes and picked off just seven in 2008, despite getting plenty of help from a healthy pass rush.
If Stanford can get more balance in their offense and develop more consistency in the defensive backfield they should be a bowl team in 2009. Coach Harbaugh knows how to fire up his team to play well. The big question going into fall is at QB. Will Tavita Pritchard hold off Andrew Luck? It is all about improved production throught he air for the Cardinal to take it to the next level in 2009.
You probably will never see me predict anything less than a Washington victory over Stanford whether it is home or away. If Jake Locker is healthy the Huskies should come away with the win and even their record to 2-2. Washington has more balance on offense and even though the offensive line is in need of a rebuild Locker will make them look better than they are. Washington receivers should have a field day against the porous Tree defensive backfield.
Defensively the Huskies will be improved in 2009. Better conditioned and better coached athletes playing with the right attitude should help the Husky defense improve in 2009. Playing a seemingly one dimensional offensive team like Stanford should be a confidence builder for this group.
I am going with a 28-17 victory for the Huskies on the road in this one.