The Huskies head down to the Bay for the first time this season to take on the Stanford Cardinal in Palo Alto. I remember going to this game a few months after I moved to San Francisco almost 3 years ago. The Huskies lost a heart breaker, 31-28. I was one of the fans still sitting there after most had cleared out, lamenting yet another road loss to a ranked opponent. Thank the football gods for USC's implosion this year, otherwise we might still have that monkey on our collective backs heading into the game on Saturday.
If you recall that matchup, the Huskies did a pretty solid job on defense, yet they could not stop Ty Montgomerey in any facet of the game. He caught 3 passes for 56 yards and a TD, but only after taking the opening kick off 99 yards to the house. He totaled over 200 yards on just 4 kick returns.
Ty Montgomery may be gone, but Stanford still has a host of weapons around QB Kevin Hogan, who enters his
seventeenth fourth year as a starting QB for the Cardinal (seriously, anyone else feel like he's been around forever?) Hogan's experience, a dominant offensive line, and the dynamic Christian McCaffrey have combined to put together an offense that yields 450 yards per game, good for 33rd best in the country. They have a very nice run/pass mix, averaging 226 yards/game on the ground, and 224 yards in the air. None of that matters however, if they can't score. But, they can, to the tune of 38 points per game. They convert 3rd downs at a scary rate as well: over 45% which puts them top 20 nationally.
The scariest of all the statistics, to me, is their red zone offense. Not only do they score on 85% of their trips inside the 20, they mostly score TDs. On 28 trips, they have 20 TDs and only 4 FGs. Add everything up, and they have a well coached, balanced, and efficienct offense that scores points. Let's take a closer look.
Kevin Hogan (Sr, 6-4, 218)
The eternal Kevin Hogan - dean of Pac-12 QBs. Currently the owner of the highest adjusted QBR (ESPN's QB rating system) in the Pac-12, he has thrown for 1200+ yards, 12 TDs, and only 3 interceptions. Not eye popping numbers, but for an offense that's scoring the way Stanford is, he's doing plenty. Consider this: he has the highest yards per attempt in the conference at 9.5 yards/attempt. When he throws, it's for big gains. Another fun stat: he only needed to throw the ball 14 times through 3 quarters to put up 56 points on UCLA. He commands this offense and runs it very, very well. He doesn't get that many chances to chuck the ball all over the field but when he needs to he's usually very good. More importantly, he makes the calls at the line of scrimmage to check into the right protections and block schemes. He's a top player who's an integral part of the Stanford offense.
Christian McCaffrey (So, 6-0, 201), Remound Wright (Sr, 5-9, 205), Barry Sanders (Sr, 5-10, 198)
Christian McCaffrey has been stealing the headlines this year, and for good reason. He leads the country in all purpose yards, with 1,518 yards and 253 yards per game. He's their primary running back and returner as well. He's explosive and can hurt teams in a variety of ways. If it wasn't for Royce Freeman and Devonte Booker, I'd say he's your surefire All Pac-12 running back at the end of the year. Barry Sanders, son of Barry Sanders, is a great second option and averages 8 yards a rush. Remound Wrights rounds out the group with 6.8 yards per carry, and 7 touchdowns. Not a whole lot else to say except that as usual, Stanford runs the ball very well.
Wide Recievers/Tight Ends
WR Michael Rector (Sr, 6-1, 189), TE Austin Hooper (Jr, 6-4, 248), WR Devon Cajuste (Sr, 6-4, 227)
Austin Hooper is the standout among this group. You may not have heard this term before, but he's what we experts at the Dawg Pound like to call a "match up nightmare." Defenders have had trouble all season trying to cover him, and he has 3 touchdowns on just 15 receptions. In typical Stanford fashion, he contributes nicely as an inline blocker as well. Michael Rector is tied for the team high in TD receptions with 3, and leads the team in receiving yards with 233. He averages 19 yards a catch, and uses his speed and 6-1 frame to run behind defense on play action. Devon Cajuste has the body of an H-back or TE, but is split out wide quite a bit. He's got 2 TDs and 167 yards on 15 receptions. Rector is the deep threat, Hooper works the middle of the field, and Cajuste usually takes the short routes. Not an overwhelmingly dynamic group, but they do their part very well for an offense that scores nearly 40 points a game.
LT Kyle Murphy (Sr, 6-7, 301), LG Joshua Garnett (Sr, 6-5, 321), Graham Shuler (Sr, 6-4, 285), RG Johnny Caspers (Sr, 6-4, 300), RT Casey Tucker (So, 6-6 300)
Easily the biggest reason for Stanford's offensive success this year, is the O line. They start 4 seniors, they're all freakin' huge, and they're tough. Kyle Murphy is easily one of the best LTs in college football, and former Puyallup star Josh Garnett has paved the way, literally, for Christian McCaffrey's breakout season. Combined, this group keeps the pocket clean for Kevin Hogan, and have allowed just 8 sacks on the year. The offense has sputtered at times the last 2-3 years, but the 2012 offensive line class (the one that UW whiffed on like every quality tackle prospect out West) are now all seniors, and leading the way in Stanford's offensive resurgance. For example, for the first time in program history, Stanford has rushed for over 300 yards in 3 consecutive games. These guys are alright, I guess.