Cardinal looking for some help

Stanford must win its Oct. 30 game at Washington to keep alive its hopes for a Rose Bowl berth. The Cardinal can get to the Rose Bowl without winning the Pac-10 conference, but it would require some help from Oregon, Boise State, Michigan State, Texas Christian or Utah and the BCS rankings.

The Cardinal has already assured itself a bowl berth for the second straight season, but anything less than a prominent bowl would be a disappointment for the Cardinal at this point.

The Cardinal's immediate concerns are rebounding from a poor performance against Washington State and preparing for Washington quarterback Jake Locker.

How Stanford prepares for Locker will be particularly important. Stanford's pass defense has been mediocre after being impressive through the first four games. And it's unclear what Locker will be able to do against Stanford -- he is expected to play, but shoulder and thigh problems and particularly a rib injury that may force him to wear extra padding have limited what he can do. Locker may not be the running threat he usually is, which may affect how the Cardinal plans its defense.

However, Stanford may not want to do anything different defensively than it did last year, when it limited Locker to 183 yards passing and 11 yards rushing while intercepting two of his passes. The Cardinal won that game 34-14 one week after Washington had upset USC in Seattle.

This time, the Huskies are coming off a disappointing 44-14 loss to Arizona, which was without its starting quarterback. The success Arizona backup quarterback Matt Scott had against the Huskies (going 18-for-22) suggests Stanford's Andrew Luck should be able to move the ball through the air against the Huskies' defense. Luck was not sharp against Washington State, although his statistics were impressive enough.

Stanford's remaining schedule is favorable. After Washington, the Cardinal hosts Arizona on Nov. 6 and Oregon State on Nov. 27, and playing the best two remaining teams at home is a significant advantage. The Cardinal also faces Arizona State and Cal on the road, and both teams have been impressive at times.

The Cardinal is still hoping to at least share the Pac-10 title, and Oct. 30 will be key in that regard. Not only does Stanford need to win on the road against a Washington team that is dangerous -- it beat USC on the road -- but first-place Oregon faces what is probably its toughest conference game of the season -- a road game against USC.

If things break right for the Cardinal, it could be tied for first place by Nov. 1.

--Stanford can get to the Rose Bowl without winning the Pac-10 conference if Oregon plays in the national championship game and either Boise State, TCU or Utah is the Ducks' opponent. The Rose Bowl is required to take a team from a conference that does not get an automatic BCS game berth if the Pac-10 champion is in the national title game. But that requirement if off the board if that non-automatic qualifier plays in the national title game. Stanford could also get to the Rose Bowl if Michigan State faces Oregon in the national title game, because the Rose Bowl could then pair a non-automatic qualifier with Stanford. This is all dependent on the Cardinal finishing second in the Pac-10.

--Stanford enters the Washington game with a 6-1 record overall and 3-1 in the conference. It is the second straight year the Cardinal is 3-1 after four Pac-10 games. Last year, the Cardinal won its first three conference games, but then dropped their next two.

--Stanford has won three of its past four games on its opponent's home field dating back to last season, and it played pretty well in all four. It pummeled USC 55-21 in its final regular-season road game last season, and handled Notre Dame and UCLA easily on the road. Stanford's lone road loss was against Oregon, when the Cardinal jumped out to a 21-3 lead but then faded for a 52-31 loss.

--Washington and Stanford will be two of the six teams in the North Division of the Pac-12 next season, which means the two are guaranteed to play each other every season.

SERIES HISTORY: Washington leads Stanford 40-36-4 (last meeting, 2009, 34-14 Stanford).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Stanford's offense has been impressive all season and should score points against Washington, too. The Cardinal is averaging 42.6 points through seven games, and has scored more than 30 points in every game. The Cardinal has been balanced on offense. It has shown a power running game behind its efficient offensive line and the running of TB Stepfan Taylor, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the past four games. The strength of the offense, though, is the passing of QB Andrew Luck, who is accurate, mobile and always seems to make the right decision. WR Ryan Whalen seems to be back at full strength, which is significant, but it's unclear whether WR Chris Owusu will play.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Cardinal defense has been pushed around the past three games coming into the Washington game, which contrasts with its impressive showings over the first four games. The Cardinal pass defense has been the biggest concern. Washington State QB Jeff Tuel had success throwing the ball against Stanford, and Washington's Jake Locker is considerably better than Tuel. Uncertainty at the strong safety spot does not help, because Delano Howell has a wrist injury that makes his status uncertain. The Cardinal has 17 sacks this season, and its pass rush has been its best weapon against the pass. However, its pass rush has not been as strong in recent games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There are no red flags. Nothing where you say, 'He can't do this or he can't do that' or 'I wish he could do this or that.'" -- Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, on QB Andrew Luck's readiness for the NFL.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Stanford at Washington, Oct. 30 -- Stanford (6-1, 3-1 Pac-10) needs to win to keep alive hopes of a BCS bowl berth, and the Huskies (3-4, 2-2) need a win to improve their chances for any bowl berth. Washington had dominated this series for years, but Stanford has won four of the past five meetings, including the past two. This season, the Huskies have had a big road win over USC and an overtime home win against Oregon State, but they are coming off a lopsided 44-14 road loss to Arizona.

KEYS TO THE GAME: If Stanford's defense can prevent Jake Locker from having a big game, the Cardinal should win. Washington TB Chris Polk is a good runner, but the key is Locker. Stanford should be able to score points against the Huskies, and if the Cardinal can prevent Locker from getting into a rhythm, Washington will have trouble scoring enough points. The pressure applied by OLBs Thomas Keiser and Chase Thomas may determine whether Locker has time to throw. If they can sack him or hit him a few times, it may make things difficult for Locker, who is already banged up with various injuries. Offensively, the Cardinal must merely avoid mistakes to have success against Washington, which yielded 356 yards in the first half against Arizona.


QB Andrew Luck -- Luck did not have a great game against Washington State, so he will be intent on bouncing back. He should have success against a Washington defense that ranks eighth in the Pac-10 in pass efficiency defense and allowed Arizona backup QB Matt Scott to have a big game in the Wildcats' 44-14 victory on Oct. 23.

CBs Richard Sherman and Johnson Bademosi -- They have played better than they did last season, but had trouble controlling big-play receivers the past few games. Their task against Washington is to prevent Huskies WR Jermaine Kearse from having a big day. He has 41 receptions and 10 touchdown catches while averaging 16.3 yards a catch. If they can keep Kearse in front of them, they will have been successful.

WR Doug Baldwin -- Ryan Whalen and Chris Owusu were supposed to be the Cardinal's big weapons on the outside, but Baldwin leads the team in receptions (28), receiving yards (402) and touchdown catches (six). He should be able to pad those numbers against Washington.


--WR Chris Owusu is questionable for the game against Washington with an undisclosed injury. He returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown against Washington last year.

--S Delano Howell is questionable for the Oct. 30 game with a wrist injury. He had two interceptions against Washington last season.

--TB Tyler Gaffney has missed Stanford past three games with an undisclosed injury, and his status for the Washington game is uncertain. Top Stories