Players to watch
#8 SR 6’4” 218-pound QB Kevin Hogan
2015 stats: 89 of 135 for 1286 yards, 65.9% completion, 9.53 YPA, 12 TD, 3 INT, 170.8 RAT, 20 carries for 37 yards, 1.9 YPC, 20 long
Sneak Peak: Consistency is the name of the game for the fifth-year senior. Hogan has thrown for at least two touchdowns and completed 69 percent of his passes in every game since Stanford’s season opening loss to Northwestern. He’s an accurate thrower and has the decision-making skills required to be the Cardinal quarterback.
Husky Comparison: A bigger, more experienced Jake Browning
#5 SO 6’0” 201-pound RB Christian McCaffrey
2015 stats: 130 carries for 844 yards, 6.5 YPC, 70 long, 5 TD, 16 catches for 172 yards, 10.8 YPC, 38 long, 1 TD
Sneak Peak: After a semi-slow start to the season, sophomore Christian McCaffrey has run his way into the Heisman race. In the last four games he is averaging 180 rushing yards per game, as well as 22.5 yards receiving. He found the end zone four times last week when the Cardinal defeated the Bruins in dominating fashion. McCaffrey is a slippery slasher of a back who has underrated top-end speed. He’s a true triple threat running the ball, catching passes, and returning kicks and punts.
Husky Comparison: Myles Gaskin
#89 SR 6’4” 227-pound WR Devon Cajuste
2015 stats: 15 receptions for 167, 11.1 YPC, 32 long, 2 TD
Sneak Peak: Devon Cajuste is a big, reliable target. He hauled in over 500 yards and five touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. Only running back Christian McCaffrey has more receptions than Cajuste so far this season. At 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds, he is a huge size mis-match on the outside.
Husky Comparison: A more seasoned Brayden Lenius
#18 JR 6’4” 248-pound TE Austin Hooper
2015 stats: 15 receptions for 227 yards, 15.1 YPC, 42 long, 3 TD
Sneak Peak: Austin Hooper earned second team all-conference honors after a 499-yard, two-touchdown 2014 campaign. Halfway through his junior season, Hooper already has scored three times. He’s a big target across the middle of the defense and a big part of Stanford’s pro-style offense.
Husky Comparison: A bigger Joshua Perkins
#7 SR 6’3” 279-pound DL Aziz Shittu
2015 stats: 22 total tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1.0 sack
Sneak Peak: Aziz Shittu, like Azeem Victor and Brian Clay, was flagged early in the first half of Stanford’s second game of the season against Central Florida. Since then he has been virtually unblockable, accumulating four tackles for loss in the last four games. One of his biggest strengths is his versatility; he has the athleticism and speed to get pressure off the edge at defensive end and has the size and strength the play inside at defensive tackle. The young Husky offensive line will have their hands full with him.
Husky Comparison: Joe Mathis
#4 SR 6’2” 245-pound LB Blake Martinez
2015 stats: 70 total tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT, 5 PD
Sneak Peak: The stingy Stanford defense has a tackling machine for a leader. His name is Blake Martinez. He’s racked up double-digit tackles in five of Stanford’s first six games, including a 14-tackle performance against USC. He has a nose for the football and plays mistake-free football. Myles Gaskin and the Husky backfield will get to know him well by the end of the game.
Husky Comparison: Azeem Victor
#34 JR 6’3” 242-pound LB Peter Kalambayi
2015 stats: 31 total tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF
Sneak Peak: Outside linebacker Peter Kalambayi brings the brunt of Stanford's pass-rush pressure. His two-and-a-half sacks are tied for the most on the team. He also has the second most tackles on the team, and only Aziz Shittu has more tackles for a loss. His versatile skill set helps him contribute to stopping the run and getting after the quarterback.
Husky Comparison: Cory Littleton
#21 SR 5’10” 172-pound CB Ronnie Harris
2015 stats: 24 total tackles, 1.0 TFL, 9 PD
Sneak Peak: Fifth-year senior and captain Ronnie Harris leads Stanford’s solid pass defense that allows only 53.9 percent of opponents' passes to be completed. Although Harris has yet to intercept a pass, no player in the conference has batted down as many passes as he has this season. His size isn’t overwhelming, but he has the speed and coverage skills to blanket just about any receiver he faces.
Husky Comparison: Sidney Jones
What the Stanford offense looks like
As one of the few teams that hasn’t switched to some sort of a spread offense, Stanford gets things done the old-fashioned way. The Cardinal offense scores 38.5 points per game, and they do it by running the ball a lot. While Christian McCaffrey gets the vast majority of carries, Barry Sanders and Remound Wright help punch the ball in when Stanford gets near the goal line. Sixteen of Stanford’s 29 touchdowns have come on the ground. The Cardinal also take care of the football. Their five turnovers are fewest in the Pac-12. For perspective, Washington turned the ball over five times in one game. The Cardinal like to mix-up personnel groups, often bringing in an extra back or an extra tight end. In short-yardage situations, Stanford will even put extra linemen in the backfield to pick up those final yards. Stanford is going to play physical; they’re going to run the ball and they’re going to do it well.
What the Stanford defense looks like
The Cardinal base 3-4 defense allows the second fewest yards per game in the Pac-12 while allowing just 21.7 points per game. Stanford has no secret to success; they get the job done by playing fundamental defense. They’re one of four defenses in the Pac-12 to limit their opponents to fewer than 140 rushing yards per game. They limit opposing quarterbacks to a 53.9 percent completion rate and just 219.2 yards per game. Stanford doesn’t force a lot of turnovers; in fact their five turnovers forced is last in the Pac-12. Turnovers haven’t been much of an issue, however, for a Cardinal team limiting their opponents’ yardage outputs and time on the field. The Stanford defense won’t blow you away with big momentum shifting turnovers, but moving the ball against them will be difficult.
Keys to the game
- Dominate time of possession: The difference between Stanford’s average time of possession and Washington’s average time of possession is more than seven minutes. Washington’s offense is young and has had difficulties finding offensive rhythm. Dominating time of possession, a task the Stanford offense can accomplish, would make it even harder for Washington to find its groove.
- Play your football: Washington has a good defense, maybe the best defense in the Pac-12. Moving the ball can be tough against a group as solid, especially against the run. Stanford needs to stay committed to running the ball and mot let Washington alter the way the Cardinal play. If Stanford abandons the run, they’ll be throwing at a Husky secondary full of playmakers. Running the ball has worked so far; dance with the one that brought you.
- Take care of the ball: Stanford has done an excellent job this year avoiding turnovers. However, as well as they’ve taken care of the ball, their defense has had trouble taking the ball away from opposing offenses. Washington is forcing between one and two turnovers per game. If Washington can do the same and get some momentum, the Cardinal defense may not have the tools necessary to get the ball back.
- Run the ball: The Huskies may have found their answer to their struggles running the ball in Myles Gaskin. Gaskin has had three games with more than 100 rushing yards, and two of those have come in the last two weeks. Washington needs to keep some of that momentum going to spark some offense on the road against a tough team.
- Make plays: This sounds obvious, but the key to many upsets is making something big happen. Rarely would a team like Stanford come out and lose a game. Washington needs to step up and grab some momentum. Whether its some sort of big play offensively, like the double-pass against USC, or a big turnover that leads to points, it will be up to Washington to put themselves in this game, because Stanford won’t just let them in.
- Wrap-up: Christian McCaffrey is slippery. The importance of tackling against a back as talented as he is, and a team as powerful as Stanford, cannot be oversold. Washington needs to play as fundamentally sound as the Stanford team they’re playing and make sure they’re finishing their tackles. Who knows? Maybe they won’t pick up a targeting call if they wrap up.