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Climbing a Mountain Called Stanford

Washington hasn't done well against Stanford in recent memory. The Cards are 5-2 against the Huskies since 2003. Maybe that is why Vegas opened with Washington being a surprising twenty point underdogs to the Cardinal on Saturday.

Another reason could be that the Tree's absolutely smacked the Huskies around in Seattle last year. Stanford's defense completely smothered the Washington offense. The Huskies were held to only 107 total yards for the entire game!

The vaunted Washington running attack that featured two future UW Hall of Famer's in Jake Locker and Chris Polk were only able to pick up 19 net rushing yards the entire day.

The Huskies were just as pathetic through the air. Locker completed only 9 of 17 passes for only 88 yards and two interceptions. The Huskies were only 2 of 11 on third down conversions and Stanford dominated time of possession 39:22 to only 20:38 for Washington.

The Tree offense led by QB Andrew Luck piled up 473 total yards on the Huskies with 278 of it coming on the ground. Luck was 19-26 with one interception, one TD and 192 yards. What really killed the Husky defense was that he scrambled on five carries for 92 yards.

Stanford’s lines were much too physical for the Huskies last season. Stanford's defense was way ahead of Washington's offense. They seem to know which play was going to be run before the ball was even snapped. They read Jake Locker like a book and made the senior Heisman candidate look like a deer in the headlights.

So what has changed over the last year?

Washington's offense is a lot better than last season. Keith Price is a much better quarterback then Jake Locker. I do concede that he has more tools to work with but he is simply more dangerous with his arm. Keith has pinpoint accuracy and he sees the entire field which is something Jake never mastered.

Keith Price's numbers on the year are very similar to Stanford's Andrew Luck. We have even heard rumblings over the past week that the third year sophomore may be positioning himself for a late season Heisman run if the Huskies do the unthinkable which is beat Stanford on Saturday.

The Husky offensive line is bigger, stronger, and more athletic despite being younger overall than last season. They have protected Price well and have given the Husky running backs led by Chris Polk plenty of holes to run through. These guys have improved with every game but the Stanford defensive front is going to challenge them.

I would put Washington's wide receivers up against anyone in the conference or the country. The Huskies are simply deep and talented. The addition of ASJ gives them a rapidly improving horse that can go up and get it anytime during the game to make a big play.

Stanford has the best defense in the Pac 12. The Cardinal use a 3-4 defensive scheme — three linemen and four linebackers. The 3-4 has given Stanford the opportunity to create a lot of pressure on opposing offenses while dictating the tempo of the game. 

Missing from the front seven is Shayne Skov who is out for the season with an injury. Even without Skov (the guy was an absolute monster) in the lineup the Cardinal are holding opposing offenses to only 59.5 yards per game on the ground which is tops in the conference and second in the country.

Stanford wants to stop your running game, make you one dimensional, then go after your quarterback, and force him into mistakes, sacks, and incompletions. This is all happening while their efficient offense led by Andrew Luck is rolling up and down the field scoring touchdowns and tiring out your defense.

The Tree offense likes to go for mismatches in the secondary and Washington is going to have to make some adjustments to deal with that. TE's Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo, and FB Ryan Hewitt who often lines up as a TE have been magnificent in 2011. The quartet have combined for 59 catches for 980 yards – an average of 16.6 yards per reception — and 15 touchdowns.

Washington needs to counter with pressure up front and some seriously physical play from their safeties. Nobody expects the Husky defense to completely shut down the Tree's but they should be able to play well enough to give the Husky offense a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.

Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro anchor Stanford's offensive line. Both of them are going to be playing in the NFL next season. Missing  in 2011 are Chase Beeler, Andrew Phillips, and Derek Hall who have graduated. Sam Schwartzstein, David Yankey and Cameron Fleming are the newcomers on the line.

Washington needs a big game out of their front four. Alameda Ta'amu and Semisi Tokolahi need to have the games of their lives and clog the Cardinal middle. Josh Shirley and Everrette Thompson need to get up field and put pressure on Luck or he is just going to pick the Husky secondary apart.

Can Washington beat Stanford?

The consensus opinion among the sportswriters out there is that Stanford is currently playing as well or even better then they were at the end of last season when they pounded Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

We all know that Washington is playing much better this season but does that translate into beating a top ten team on the road?

I guess we will find out on Saturday.