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Opponent Offense Preview: Stanford Cardinal

NCAA Football: Stanford at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

While they average just 26 points per game, Stanford’s offense has gone over 30 points five times, including breaking 40 points twice. They’ve continued to lean into being a pass first team (56:44 pass to run) while still stubbornly insisting on running the ball with goal line packages at midfield. It is a wise choice because they don’t even crack 100 yards a game on the ground. Let’s dive in.

Oh look, Stanford’s quarterback and receivers are huge

Tanner McKee arrived at Stanford as a top 40 overall player and one of the best quarterback prospects in the country. He fell off radar screens some due to taking his two year LDS mission, but the 6-6 signal caller is certainly a pulsing green dot now (awesome compliment) and playing excellent football for the Cardinal. He’s completing 64.7% of his passes for 1,722 yards, 14 TDs, and 3 INTs. For what it’s worth, all three of his picks came against Arizona State where the offense fell apart and only scored 10 points.

He also hasn’t fumbled, and despite being sacked 18 times he is generally playing very clean ball. McKee has a weird, loopy release, but as a player will remind fans of Davis Mills with a more accurate arm. He’s a stand-tall-in-the-pocket and pick apart the defense type of quarterback who can be lights out when he’s in rhythm. He has very impressive touch, timing, and ability to read through his progressions.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Stanford Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

His main targets are Elijah Higgins (33 catches, 410 yards, 4 TDs), Brycen Tremaine (20 catches, 245 yards, 5 TDs), and the tight end Ben Yurosek (20 catches, 340 yards, 1 TD.) Higgins has stepped up in his third season with the Cardinal to be the main threat outside. Like the rest of the pass catchers, he’s got size at 6-3 and athletic enough to make spectacular catches, like he did to send the Oregon game to overtime:

Tremaine is another big, 6-4 wide receiver and the exact type of Stanford threat that Washington has been unable to neutralize in recent years. Basically, he’s the jump ball guy. Having nightmares yet? Ben Yurosek is an athletic tight end who leads the team in yards per catch for anyone with double digit receptions. He’s 6-5 and is both nimble and fast enough to be used on end-arounds. Finally, there is John Humphreys (former HS teammate of Mark Redman and Ethan Garbers), yet another athletic 6-5 target at wide receiver. He’s questionable for Saturday but has been a steady and consistent target when healthy.

On the ground

Stanford is still Stanford, and will do their tough-guy run game thing. But, despite high level offensive line recruiting, it is simply not coming together for them. The Cardinal actually rush for fewer yards per game than Washington and are 99th in expected points per rush play. Essentially, they do a poor job of getting the yards they need in the given situation (e.g. needing three yards on a 3rd-and-2 and getting one).

Leading the way in the backfield is the duo of Nathaniel Peat and Austin Jones. Both are similar players in build at 5-10 and 200 pounds, have about the same number of carries, and play a similar style. They are between the tackles type of runners who chug along all game. While Peat has been the much more efficient runner at 5.6 yards per rush (compared to Jones at 3.6), Jones has contributed much more in the pass game. He has 23 catches which is more than both Ben Yurosek and Brycen Tremaine.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Stanford Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Final Thoughts

At time of writing Stanford is favored by 2.5 over Washington. The past two seasons Washington has been a double digit favorite, only to lose handily. Maybe that’s a good sign for Saturday?

David Shaw’s plodding, methodical offense with the occasional 3rd and long completion to a huge receiver has given the Huskies problems for years. If Washington is to win, Zion Tupuloa-Fetui needs to affect those plays by getting to the quarterback before he has a chance to make a play. Hopefully ZTF has gotten healthier and can help take Stanford off the field on 3rd downs, giving the ball to the Husky offense. Wait, is Washington having the ball a good thing?

Go Dawgs.