Stanford may be struggling this season, but that does not change the fact that the Cardinal have plenty of talent.
That talent starts with Heisman running back Christian McCaffrey.
“I think they have played pretty good teams, they’ve just missed big plays here and there,” Rich Rodriguez said. “Christian McCaffrey being out certainly didn’t help. They are the same big and physical front.
“Their quarterbacks are still talented and really fast at wide out. I think they’ve had some really close games, as we all have. They have lost some really tough close games this year.”
Rodriguez remembers seeing McCaffrey in high school and he was a similar player then as he is now.
“I think everybody in the country wanted him,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t remember when he committed, but I remember watching his high school highlight film, which is what you would expect.
“He is a phenomenal player and did everything, and has done that in college. Some of that has probably hurt them, even though they are pretty talented with their backups. He is one of the best players in the country.”
McCaffrey probably has not gotten the attention he deserves, but much of that has to do with his injury.
“I think the biggest reason is that he has been injured,” Rodriguez said. “He hasn’t played as much and he maybe wasn’t 100% in the last game, but that was a pretty good defense he played against.
“I think the expectations are probably so high for the numbers that it is almost unrealistic for anyone to reach that height. Watching him play in some of the games this year, he is the same guy when he is healthy.
“He is just explosive, and you have to know where he is because a large part of their offense and a certain part of their special teams goes through him when he is in the game.”
Not only is McCaffrey dangerous as a running back, but Arizona needs to be careful of him on special teams just like it was against USC and Adoree' Jackson.
“If you are going to kick it to them, you better be able to kick it with a lot of height and have guys around him,” Rodriguez said.
“With guys like McCaffrey and Jackson, if they get the ball with space, on any special team or really anywhere, you can have talented guys but they are going to make you miss and create big plays. You have to be aware where you’re at and be really good with the placement of your kicks.”null