Big thanks to Jack Blanchat of Rule of Tree for engaging with us on this.
1. The Cardinal came into the year with a ton of hype. Do you think they've lived up to it so far?
I think yes - there's nothing I've seen so far to suggest that Stanford isn't a top-tier team and one of the teams to beat in the Pac-12. They've mixed in some great performances with some so-so ones, but overall I think the expectations are still correct for this team.
2. Stanford hasn't yet played a team with Washington's talent at the skill positions. How do you think they match up with the Huskies on the perimeter?
I think Stanford matches up with the Huskies pretty well - especially with Alex Carter on Kasen Williams. Williams killed Stanford a year ago (10 catches, 129 yards and a TD), but Alex Carter has emerged as a lockdown corner and I think his presence on the field should force Price to spread the ball around more. I think the wild card in all of this is Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who had only two catches last year against Stanford, but has scored the last two weeks for the Huskies. If he has a big day down the middle, the Huskies could find yards in big chunks. He's the guy I'm most worried about.
3. Last year, Bishop Sankey ran over the Cardinal, powering the Huskies to a win. This season Sankey has proven to be one of the best backs in the nation and the offensive line is much improved. Will Stanford's defense be able to contain him?
I'm not sure because Stanford alternates between great run defense and average run defense on a weekly basis. For example, Johnathan Franklin had 21 carries for only 65 yards against Stanford the last week of the regular season, but turned around and ran for 194 yards and two touchdowns the very next week in the Pac-12 title game. Because Stanford hasn't faced a back anywhere near his caliber yet this season, I'll venture a guess that Sankey runs well in the first half but the Cardinal D clamps down a bit as the game goes along. But quite frankly, I don't know what to expect.
4. How much better has Stanford's passing game gotten since these teams last played? Is it just the evolution of Kevin Hogan, or is there more to it?
Stanford's passing game has gotten so, so much better. Last year, there basically wasn't a passing game for the first eight games. This year, the Cardinal has found a multitude of big pass plays - including touchdown passes of 33, 45 and 57 yards a week ago - for two reasons. Number one is that Kevin Hogan is a much better passer than Josh Nunes and number two is that wide receiver has actually proved to be a very deep position for the Cardinal. But Hogan is steadily becoming one of the nation's most efficient, trustworthy quarterbacks, and that has helped this team a lot.
5. The Huskies have shown to have one of the best defenses in the country through their first four games. How does Stanford go about attacking the unit that kept them out of the endzone a season ago?
I think you'll see the standard Stanford mix of between-the-tackles running, but expect a few more deep passes than a year ago and probably a few trick plays. The Cardinal loves to bust out offensive weapon Kelsey Young in big games, so be on the lookout for an end around or some kind of razzle-dazzle with him involved. Stanford's offense really doesn't change too much from week to week - it's just about execution this year, something the Cardinal sorely lacked a year ago.
6. What's your prediction for the game?
I think Stanford's a little too strong for the Huskies this year - but I do expect it to be a nailbiter. I think Stanford's mistake-free football and tough D are just a bit too much to overcome, so I'll pick the Cardinal, 27-20.