Game Preview: Stanford

A short week of preparation precedes the biggest matchup at Husky Stadium in this brief century. The Huskies open as slight favorites against Christian McCaffrey and the Stanford Cardinal. Both teams are coming off nerve-racking road victories. Which team will rise to the occasion?

A battle tested pack of Huskies hope to show they are that team in front of a sold out Friday night game on national television. Brandon Dawkins, J.J. Taylor, and the Arizona Wildcats found success on the run last week against UW. This week, the Huskies need to keep Christian McCaffrey in check. But this isn’t the Stanford McCaffreys. There are plenty of other players worth keeping an eye one. Let’s look at some of those guys.

Players to Watch

#17 SR 6’5” 233-pound QB Ryan Burns

2016 stats: 35 of 57 for 395 yards, 61.4%, 3 TD, 2 INT

Scoop: After registering just one pass attempt his first three years of eligibility, it’s now Ryan Burns’ year to start at quarterback for the Cardinal. His usage thus far has been light, attempting less than 20 passes per game. However, he was tasked with marching his team down the field with two minutes left on the road against UCLA down four points. He looked solid on the drive, showing confidence in the pocket and delivering a few nice balls to Trent Irwin to move the chains, and a nice fade to JJ Arcega-Whiteside to finish the drive with six points. He may not be the centerpiece of the offense, but he’s effective enough when relied upon.

#5 JR 6’0” 200-pound RB Christian McCaffrey

2016 stats: 79 carries for 436 yards, 5.5 YPC, 12 receptions for 119 yards, 4 total touchdowns

Scoop: It’s no secret Christian McCaffrey is Stanford’s most potent threat offensively. The kid simply does it all. He leads the team in receptions, receiving yards, rushing attempts, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and is tied for the lead in receiving touchdowns. They’ll line him up wide, throw it to him out of the backfield, get under center and give it to him up the middle, toss it out wide and let him do work in space, and plenty more. He’s a patient, slippery runner that is seemingly unstoppable. With all that he does as a runner, receiver, and returner, keeping him around 150 all-purpose yards would be a strong performance defensively.

#2 SO 6’2” 206-pound WR Trent Irwin

2016 stats: 9 receptions for 105 yards

Scoop: Irwin is second on the team in receptions and yards through the air, trailing only Christian McCaffrey. Ryan Burns called Irwin’s name a few times on Stanford’s go-ahead touchdown drive at UCLA last weekend, showing a nice rapport between the two. On a third and eight late in the game, look for Irwin to be Stanford’s go-to-guy.

#3 SR 6’1” 187-pound WR Michael Rector

2016 stats: 6 receptions for 79 yards, 2 carries for 57 yards, 2 total TD

Scoop: Rector’s senior year has seen a sort of slow start, averaging less than 30 yards per game through the air. However, he’s busted two plays of over 40 yards, one on a reverse and one on a deep ball, both of which resulted in touchdowns. He brings big play potential and experience to the table for Stanford’s receiving corps. 

#34 JR 6’3” 246-pound LB Peter Kalambayi

2016 stats: 12 total tackles, 4.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks

Scoop: Peter Kalambayi has been a presence in the backfield since he was a redshirt freshman, posting 15 tackles for a loss before the start of this season. That body of work earned him preseason first team all-Pac-12 honors from Phil Steele, and through four games he looks deserving of the accolades. He leads his teams in sacks and tackles for a loss and will be a big difference maker Friday night.

#66 JR 6’4” 285-pound NT Harrison Phillips

2016 stats: 8 total tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks

Scoop: After missing his entire sophomore season with an injury, Phillips has been tasked with manning the middle of Stanford’s line. He’s wasted no time, providing pressure from the inside and even picking up a couple sacks. Whether he’s bursting through the line himself or clearing up space for other Cardinal defenders, the interior of the Husky offensive line will feel his impact.

#29 SR 6’3” 215-pound S Dallas Lloyd

2016 stats: 10 total tackles, 1 INT

Scoop: After spending his first two years on offense, Lloyd took his talents to the defensive side of the ball as a redshirt sophomore on 2014. He has tremendous size for a defensive back and, for that reason, is a good tackler in space. He’s one of three Cardinal with an interception this year, and the leader of a secondary that will have two starters out with injury this weekend.

What does the Stanford offense look like

Stanford, in the most Stanford way possible, has a unique, old school style of offense. They still can line up in the shotgun, but they spend more time under center than any team Washington has faced this year. And, like all old-school teams, they like to run the ball. A lot. In fact, over 65 percent of their plays this year have been runs. You can’t really blame them with a back like Christian McCaffrey.

Basically, they get him the ball however they can, whenever they can. On the first drive of the year, Stanford threw a pass with McCaffrey lined out wide as a receiver, gave him the rock up the middle, and pitched it to him out of the i-formation. 

Obviously, stopping McCaffrey takes a lot of this offense’s bite, but that’s a lot easier said than done. However, if he can be stopped, Stanford’s output will rest in Ryan Burns’ hands. He averages fewer yards through the air than McCaffrey does on the ground. That’s not to say he isn’t efficient when he does throw the ball. Regardless, his less than 20 attempts per game should indicate how reliant they are on their workhorse.

Stanford isn’t a team that runs many plays either. Although their average time of possession is over 31 minutes, they only run about 59 plays per game.

Put it all together and you have an offense that isn’t really trying to hide anything. They’re going to run the ball, a lot, and find as many other ways as possible to get McCaffrey the ball. They’re fine with you knowing that, because it’s hard to stop either way.

What does the Stanford defense look like

In their base defense, the Cardinal share some similarities with the Huskies. Three linemen put their hands in the ground, while outside pass rush comes via two outside linebackers. When they’re in a 3-4, they’ll often creep Dallas Lloyd into the box to try to stuff the run. They’re a little diverse in their nickel packages, willingly subbing out a linebacker or a linemen to add a fifth defensive back.

From a production standpoint, the Cardinal have been lights out this year, allowing only 12 points per game. This isn’t because of a high propensity to force turnovers, but because of their phenomenal red zone defense and ability to get off the field on third down. It also helps that their offense chews the clock something fierce.

From a numbers standpoint, they’ve been more dominant stopping the run, allowing less than 100 yards per game on the ground. However, they’re stingy through the air as well, allowing only two touchdowns through three games. But Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder missing this Friday’s game with injury could open a few passing lanes for the Huskies. Both corners are 6-foot-2 and with shorter replacements, the Husky receivers should have an easier time getting off the line.

The bottom line is Stanford has an elite defense that has held USC and UCLA to a combined 23 points, and will pose a big challenge for the Huskies this week.

Keys to the Game


1. Force some turnovers - If there’s one field the Huskies have a glaring advantage in, it’s turnover margin. Stanford has only forced four turnovers through three games, while Washington is forcing over three a game. Losing the turnover battle is tough to overcome on the road against a top-10 team.

2. Clog all lanes - Lavon Coleman’s big game launched the Huskies to victory last week. If Stanford can keep all Husky runners from getting the hot hand and give Washington a hard time in the run game, it will make it even harder for the Dawgs to crack one of the best defenses in the nation.

3. Strike the pose - A Heisman-like performance from Christian McCaffrey makes it easier for the Cardinal to deconstruct the Husky defense. 


1. Time of possession - Part of what makes the Cardinal so tough to beat is opponents don’t have many chances to score on them. If the Huskies can have the ball for the majority of the contest on Friday, they could be the first team to score more than 13 on Stanford.

2. Be a Chameleon - Running the ball well got the Huskies out of the desert with a win. Throwing the ball helped the Huskies cruise through non-conference play. Adjusting to whatever Stanford throws at the Husky offense will be key if the Huskies want to successfully defend their house.

3. Purple Reign - This is the moment Husky fans have been waiting for for nearly 20 years. 70,000-plus will back the Dawgs on Friday. It’s time to channel all that energy and put on a show.

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