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Opponent Q&A: Talking Stanford Cardinal Football

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Jack Blanchat from ‘Rule of Tree’ prepares us for Friday night’s slugfest

NCAA Football: Stanford at Southern California
You must have an IQ over 145 to understand this mascot.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week we had the chance to talk to Jack Blanchat (@jackblanchat) from the SBN community Rule of Tree regarding this week’s matchup with the Huskies.

Here’s what we learned in our Q&A:

UWDP: The QB situation continues to be a problem for Stanford. Keller Chryst has looked awful and has once again been replaced by K.J. Costello who has been… less awful? What’s the deal? Is Ryan Burns no longer an option?

Jack: This whole season has been muddy waters for the Cardinal at QB. After a miserable game against San Diego State, Chryst got hurt against UCLA. So when KJ Costello stepped in and played well for two games in a row, it looked like he'd won the job. But then the QBs split time against Utah and Chryst played great against Oregon and then Chryst played horribly against Oregon State so then Costello played again... and didn't play great but David Shaw said it was his fault for not giving Costello enough chances so he'll start again on Friday.

On top of that, Ryan Burns comes in to run the wildcat from time to time.

So yeah, it's been confusing. I think Costello is the QB they want to see succeed going forward, and these last few weeks of the season will certainly test his mettle.

UWDP: Washington is down six starters due to injury, but aren’t going to get much sympathy from a Cardinal team that is without starting LT Walker Little, CB Alijah Holder and dealing with a hobbled Bryce Love. Any other injuries you know of that could impact Friday’s game?

Jack: I think that covers it, actually - biggest question is how Love looks just six days after playing on an ankle that seemed to still be a little sore.

UWDP: For those of us that didn’t see the WSU game, how did Love look from a health standpoint? How has the offensive line performed this season blocking for Love and in pass protection?

Jack: Love largely looked okay, but I don't think he was 100 percent - and nobody said that he was, either. Generally speaking, the offensive line has done a okay job this year, but they've really struggled with the basics at times too. A miserable performance against USC led to a total reshuffling of the line, and they'd played okay since then, but Wazzu presented some real problems with their quickness up front. Oddly, the line did better in pass protection than run blocking last week.

Oregon v Stanford
RB Bryce Love has a 50+ yard run in each of his last 10 games.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

UWDP: UW was really hoping to land Connor Wedington and Foster Sarell, but both chose Stanford. What can you tell us about their young careers so far?

Jack: Wedington has played a little bit at receiver this year, and he's made a few nice splash plays, including a 43-yard run against UCLA. The offense has been too Bryce Love-dependent or otherwise bogged down to get him too many touches, but he's been a nice added piece as a true freshman. Sarell really hasn't played much - I think many people expected him to win a starting job over AT Hall, but Hall has managed to keep his job thus far. So a lot to be determined for both these young guys.

UWDP: The Cardinal are middle of the Pac-12 in both rushing and passing defense, but a lack of weakness in either area has them #2 overall in scoring defense. How would you assess their play this season and who are some key defenders to watch?

Jack: The defense has been okay - but their weakness is on the ground, where they still get carved up from time to time. The defensive line isn't great outside of Harrison Phillips, so they sometimes can't get enough TFL and sacks to really throw offenses off script for long. The defensive backs have played pretty good this year for the most part, but they've also had to cover for a front seven that isn't super intimidating. The most important defenders on the field are Phillips, one of the national leaders in tackles, and safety Justin Reid and cornerback Quenton Meeks, who anchor the defensive backfield.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Washington State
DT Harrison Phillips (#66) has 21 tackles for loss over the past two seasons.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

UWDP: How would you rate the special teams and the Cardinal kicking game? Any electric return men?

Jack: Stanford's punting game is really, really good. Jake Bailey has even earned the ironic hashtag #JakeBaileyForHeisman. Kicker Jet Toner has been rock solid all season (15-17 on field goals). The return game really hasn't been special on punt teams, but the kickoff return game has been strong, although not as explosive as the Christian McCaffrey era. Coach Shaw has prudently taken Bryce Love off the kickoff teams to preserve him for running back reps.

UWDP: What is your prediction for this game?

Jack: Honestly, I'm not optimistic that Stanford will win because they looked so disjointed last week, but I think they can scrap a little bit and make it a tough game. Short week, Washington is traveling, etc. However, Washington under Chris Petersen has been a good foil for Shaw and company, so I'd say I expect the Huskies to win a low-scoring contest.

UWDP: Thanks Jack. Be sure to check out Rule of Tree for more on the game from the Stanford perspective.

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To read my answers to Jack’s questions, click here.