Know Your Foe Q&A: Stanford Cardinal

To get more insight into the Buffaloes' next opponent, we caught up with R.J. Abeytia of, which is part of the network...

With two losses in the first half of the season, certainly it was a disappointing start to the campaign for the Cardinal. What led to Stanford's early struggles? Is there a feeling in Palo Alto the Cardinal still have the ability to bounce back and achieve their goals this season?
R.J. Abeytia: "The three biggest keys for the struggles would be a staggeringly horrible performance from the offensive line, crucial injuries especially in the defensive secondary, and inconsistent quarterback play.  There is no chance for Stanford to reach its goals this year, given the goals of being a playoff contender and repeating as Pac-12 champs.  Stanford's not going to be three loss column games better than both Washington and Washington State, which is what it would take to win the Pac-12 North. The funny thing is that if the Cardinal had gone a 'different' 4-2, without both losses being to divisional opponents, optimism would be very high considering the quality of Stanford's schedule and the injuries."
Preseason Heisman candidate and Colorado native Christian McCaffrey was unable to play in Stanford's 17-10 win over Notre Dame... what is the latest with his status? Do you expect to see him play against the Buffaloes this Saturday?
"As of today (10/18), McCaffrey was listed as 'iffy' for Saturday but reportedly is feeling better.  I'd expect Stanford to err on the side of caution, a luxury they may have based on Bryce Love's performance Saturday against Notre Dame."
Stanford is averaging just 19 points per game, yet when McCaffrey is healthy, the Cardinal have arguably the most dynamic player in college football... what can Buffs fans expect to see out of Stanford's offense on Saturday?
"Buff fans' guess is as good as mine.  Nobody who covers Stanford and possibly nobody who coaches Stanford has any idea what the Cardinal is going to do.  On paper, this team should be a very good offense, but the coaches remain totally vexed by the inconsistent play, missed assignments, drive-killing penalties, dropped passes, and uncharacteristic lack of physicality Stanford's offense has frequently showcased.  I wouldn't be surprised to see them get it together on Saturday, but this is a team that has scored one offensive touchdown in each of its last four games, so......yeah."
The Cardinal rank a respectable fourth in the conference in scoring defense, and fifth in scoring defense... what are Stanford's strengths and weaknesses on that side of the ball? And who are the top playmakers?
"When healthy, Stanford's strength is without question its secondary.  Quenton Meeks illustrated his value fairly definitively with his game turning Pick Six in South Bend.  That Stanford was scorched by Jake Browning and Luke Falk in the absence of Meeks and fellow 6-foot-2 corner Alijah Holder is not coincidental.  The defensive line has Solomon Thomas going for it, which is enough to warrant concern for opposing offenses.  Without question the linebacking has been an unmitigated calamity.    Stanford is rotating three couplets at inside linebacker, and none have offered much in the name of run support or anything remotely resembling pass coverage. Outside, there seems to be talent with Peter Kalambayi, Joey Alfieri, and Casey Toohill, but that group has too often failed to hit its two biggest responsibilities:  Setting the edge on opponent runs and creating edge pressure on passes.  Essentially the problem is that Stanford's most talented players are its least experienced, and its most experienced guys are not as gifted as some of the stalwarts they have had in the past."
Aside from McCaffrey, do the Cardinal have any other injuries of note?
"Fullback Daniel Marx, an underrated key to the running game, has been out since the UCLA game and is out for the game on Saturday.  Stanford keeps its injury reporting on the down low, but Holder could be back in the secondary.  He's questionable as of today."
Lastly, how do you see Saturday's game at Stanford Stadium shaking out? What is your score prediction?
"I don't see a very high scoring affair, so I'll say the winner probably gets its done 21-17.  The Buffs are a very formidable team, and nobody in the Bay Area is surprised to see that Mike MacIntyre can coach.  This is pretty much the biggest game left on the schedule, and I think Colorado is going to run into a salty Stanford group.  It should be a very good game, really most dependent on Stanford being able to show some level of offensive competence."

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