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Five questions about Stanford

David Fowkes is an expert on Stanford football for the Bay Area Examiner. Dave asked me if I we could exchange five questions each about the big game on Saturday. Click on his link because he could use a few page views over at his site.

Dave is probably the only guy other than John Wilner who has in depth information about Stanford football.

John's Berkowitz's Five Questions about Stanford.

1. Last time Jake Locker played a full game against Stanford he dominated and Washington came out with an easy win. Short of breaking his thumb again what will the Cardinal do to minimize the damage he can
cause on offense.

Minimize is the key word. I think Stanford knows that shutting Locker down completely is a bit far fetched. That said, the best way to stop a quarterback is to hit a quarterback and Stanford has a pretty good defensive line and some very good pass rushers on the end. Tom Keiser has just been added to the watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award (given to the best defensive end in the country) after his three sack performance against San Jose State. Senior Erik Lorig also puts constant pressure on the quarterback from the other side. If Stanford can get pressure and force Locker to move or throw before he wants to, it will lighten the burden on the defensive backfield. Linebackers Chike Amajoyi and Clinton Snyder will need to use their speed to keep an eye on Locker scrambling out of the backfield.
Without any pressure though, Stanford's defense will be in trouble.

2. Stanford is giving up over 200 passing yards per game this season. What is your assessment of the Cardinal secondary right now?

You would think three games into a season it would be easy to assess, but in this case they are still a bit of a mystery. With two former offensive players, Richard Sherman and Delano Howell, now starting on defense every
game should be a little better. Howell has proved to be a great tackler. Senior Bo McNally is a great hitter. On the corners, Sherman and Corey Gatewood are improving but need to be better. It is a very athletic secondary which is good, but very unseasoned. Bottom line again, with a pass rush this secondary can be very good but left on their own, there is a lot of yardage to allow.

3. Do you think the Stanford is too one dimensional of offense? It seems if you stop Gephart you stop Stanford.

That changes this year. Andrew Luck is the real deal at quarterback. For a kid with just three starts under his belt he plays calm and cool. He has a great arm and a good sense for the game. For the first time in a few years
Stanford has some explosive players at wide out as well. Wide receivers Chris Owusu and Ryan Whalen are very good and can take a 5-yard route and turn it into a touchdown on any play. This year's Cardinal is far more balanced. The problem for them so far has not been when opponents stop the running game, but the fact that they have stopped themselves with penalties
and turnovers.

4. Who are some of the Cardinal play makers we need to keep an eye on this Saturday?

WR Chris Owusu has made big plays on offense but also has two kickoff returns for touchdowns. RB Toby Gerhart and QB Andrew Luck are obvious choices. Nobody outside of Stanford seems to know about Ryan Whalen but all he does is catch everything thrown his way. He has surprising speed. On defense, as mentioned the ends will be huge for this game with Tom Keiser and Erik Lorig trying to control Locker. Linebacker Clinton Snyder is the
leading tackler on defense.

5. We are all impressed by the way Jim Harbaugh has rebuilt the Stanford football program. Is this the year that Stanford goes bowling?

I think so. This game will let us know more but Stanford is clearly a better team. They don't have a lot of depth but the front line players are as good as we have seen on the Farm in a number of years. That said, as Washington
proved last week, the Pac-10 is wide open. My hunch is that if Stanford plays their game, limits their turnovers and penalties, then they can compete with anybody and will win enough games to go to a bowl and maybe
even a good bowl. But there are still enough question marks out on the field that you certainly can not guaranty anything.

Dave's Fowkes Five Questions about Washington

1. After last weekend, Jake Locker has moved into the national spotlight as one of the top quarterbacks in the land. Other than good health, what is he doing to take his game to the next level?

Honestly it is all about the coaching he has received over the last six months. Under Willingham they discouraged him from seeking outside tutoring despite the fact that there was not a actual QB coach on the staff. Steve Sarkisian and Jeff Nussmeier are two of the best college QB coaches in the country. You get better under that type of tutelage. Sarkisian also parked Jake with Steve Clarkson who is one the country's top QB guru's. He helped Jake adapt to the pro style offense that Sarkisian wants to run. In previous years it was all about Jake against the defense. Now it is about Jake and all the tools he has around him complimenting him.

2. As Stanford fans can attest, beating USC is a lot of fun. How do the Huskies and Coach Sark avoid a let down the week after?

Don't read the newspaper and don't turn on the computer. Reading your own press clippings is the worst thing you can do in this type of situation. Washington is coming off an 0-12 season and I feel the players and the coaches are smart enough to realize why they won last weeks game. USC simply turned over the ball too many times. If USC doesn't turn over the ball they win the game by 17 points. I think Washington realizes that they have to play hard on every snap. The coaches realize that they have to out fox each opponent. Washington can beat every single team left on the schedule. They also have the ability to lose every game. Getting back to 0-12...I think that is deeply ingrained in the psyche of the team. They know they need a supreme effort to win each week.

3. The main mission of anybody playing against Stanford is to stop Toby Gerhart. Who will shoulder the load for that responsibility and how will they get it done?

Our defensive line shut down some serious big backs in the LSU game. I think the LSU backs are the equal of Toby Gephart. We held Idaho to under 100 yards rushing. USC ran for 250 yards against us which is unacceptable. The saving grace is after the first quarter they only ran for only 134 yards the rest of the game. In addition to that they were 0-10 in third down conversions. That is a remarkable state. Even more remarkable than the four turnovers.Washington has a number of different looks on the defensive line they can throw at an offense. They have a speed lineup and a bulk lineup. You will see both on Saturday. we have one of the best linebacking crews in the Pac 10. Donald Butler who is a senior middle linebacker was the national defensive player of the week. Overall we have some weapons in the front seven. If Gephart breaks into the secondary we have some DB's who are very good against the run. Washington played very physical last Saturday and I expect that to carry through to this week.

4. Stanford's special teams have really stepped up this season and have been a force both on returns and coverage. How are the Huskies special team units faring?

I have to give the edge to Stanford at this point because they are scoring TD's with their special teams. We did shut down the nations best return man against LSU so our coverage and strategy this year has worked well. We have an excellent punter who has great touch. He can boom the ball with pin point placement. Our FG kicker Erik Folk was 3-3 with a long of 48 against USC. He has been consistent. We haven't broken any big returns yet. We have speed back there so I am sure it will happen as the season goes on. Overall special teams play is an indication of a teams quality depth. I think UW and Stanford are about equal in that department. Once again the thing that separates Stanford from Washington on special teams is 21 points scored on returns. That is just huge!

5. Washington has played in three games, all at home with a "good" loss to LSU and the huge upset of USC. How will a young upstart team handle their first road experience?

Playing on the road is never easy. There are a lot of adjustments you have to make. This is the first road game under a new staff so I am sure there are some kinks to work out. On the plus side we will be playing in front of an unenthusiastic crowd of 25,000 Tree fans on medical marijuana. Usually close to 10,000 Husky fans show up since we travel well and have a lot of alumni in the Bay Area. Since our fans load up on beer and hard liquor before the game chances are we will make more noise. The last time Washington played Stanford on the road it seemed like it was a home game for UW. In other words I don't think the crowd will be much of a factor. I think it is a great transitional road game to get us ready for Notre Dame the following week.

This game has to be broken into four components.

A. Jake Locker vs the Stanford defense

I don't think Stanford can stop Locker through the air or on the ground.

B. Toby Gephart vs the Washington offense

If Gephart gets into the secondary UW could have a long day. If Washington can hold him to around 100 yards they should be fine.

C. Tree special teams vs UW special teams

Stanford has proven they can score with their special teams. What I really like about Harbaugh is that he really emphasizes this part of the game because he knows he hasn't built the depth and diversity he needs to compete toe to toe with every team in the league. He is close and after the next recruiting class arrives you will se a different Stanford team that will blow some doors off. In the meantime he concentrates on winning this part of the game to even up any disadvantage his team has.

D. Andrew Luck is the second best QB in the Pac 10

Andrew Luck frightens me. I saw him play against WSU and was surprised by how mobile he was. To me he looks like a future first round draft choice. I expect Washington to contain Gephart but can they stop Luck once the game is on his shoulders? Special teams and Andrew Luck are the two wild cards in this game. Harbaugh likes to throw under twenty times per game but Luck has completed 60% of his passes which is amazing for a RS frosh. I think Luck is going to be the X-factor on Saturday.