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October 21, 2011Matchup: No. 22 Washington Huskies (5-1,3-0) at No. 7 Stanford Cardinal (6-0, 4-0)
Kickoff: Saturday, 5 p.m. (PST), Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto, Calif.
TV, Radio: The game will air to a regional audience on ABC. Sean McDonough, Matt Millen and Heather Cox will provide the commentary. It can be heard in Seattle on the radio on 950-AM KJR with Bob Rondeau doing the play-by-play, Damon Huard doing color commentary and Elise Woodward reporting from the sideline.
Coaches: Steve Sarkisian, Washington (third year); David Shaw, Stanford (first year)
Series: The Huskies have the slight edge in the overall series, holding a 41-37-4 record, but recently the Cardinal have dominated the series. Stanford has won five of the past six meetings, including a 41-0 win last season in Husky Stadium. The Cardinal are also on a three-game winning streak; the last time the Huskies won was in Palo Alto in 2007, 27-9.
About the Cardinal Stanford's offense is led by one of the best players in the nation, quarterback Andrew Luck, who is considered by some to be one of the best college quarterbacks ever. He has been given the reins on offense and calls the majority of the offensive plays from the line of scrimmage. Luck isn't just an incredible passer, but he also has superb athleticism, which he has put on display throughout his career both running the football and catching passes at times. The Cardinal use their two tight ends, Coby Fleener and Levine Toilolo, who have combined for half of Luck's touchdown passes. The Cardinal have also had success running the football, ranking third in the Pac-12 with 181.7 yards per game on the ground. That balance has led to incredible efficiency and a perfect 31-for-31 red zone scoring rate.
Defensively, the Cardinal have been dominant against the run. They rank second in the nation allowing just 59.5 yards per game on the ground. Outside linebacker Chase Thomas has been one of the best players in the country up to this point. Thomas leads the Pac-12 in both sacks with six and tackles for loss with eight on the season. The Stanford defense is great starting halves. It has yet to allow a point this season in the first quarter and has given up just six points in the third quarter this year. Stanford's red zone defense is also one of the best in the nation, allowing opponents to score on just 58.8 percent of their trips into the red zone.
About the Huskies: The offense for Washington has been nearly unstoppable all season long. The Huskies have scored 30 or more points in every game this season. Like Stanford, the Huskies have been relying heavily on their quarterback. Keith Price, who in his first season as a starter, is second in the nation in passing touchdowns. Price has battled injuries throughout the season, but appears to be healthy following a bye week and a strong performance over Colorado. His excellent accuracy to go along with his deep receiving corps has been effective all year long. The Huskies also rely heavily on their workhorse running back Chris Polk, who is second in the conference, 14th in the country in rushing yards this season. Polk has run for over 100 yards in all but one game this season, yet has been an after-thought with the success of Price, but the offense of Washington does rely on his ability to set up the pass.
The Husky defense is improving and has put together 10 solid quarters going back to halftime against California. Since that time, the Huskies have allowed just 41 points, some of which came in garbage time against Colorado and Utah. Still, the Huskies are last in the conference in pass defense, allowing 303.7 yards per game through the air and have yet to find a consistent pass rush. Washington has found success stopping the run, they are third in the conference allowing just 97 yards per game on the ground and a big part of that is the return of Semisi Tokolaha. His presence has freed up Alameda Ta'Amu, who was being double teamed in the early parts of the season, but has come on in the last few games to be a force on defense.
What to expect: Neither team has a win against an opponent with a winning record, yet Stanford is a 20-point favorite based on track record. Luck and company has proven that they are a force to be reckoned with and their offense should continue to put up points against a questionable Husky defense. The Washington offense will need to play a near flawless game to keep up with Stanford unless the Huskies can force several turnovers. This game will have plenty of points scored with two stellar offenses and the one that makes fewer mistakes should win. Neither has been mistake prone up to this point in the season, but being at home with a veteran quarterback gives the Cardinal the advantage in a shootout.
UDubNation.com pick: Stanford, 45-38
Follow UDubNation's Mitchell Larsen on Twitter @MLarsen_Rivals
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