I hate weeks like this. Coming off a loss sucks (I can’t imagine being on the team right now) and we’re heading to Palo Alto. As it happens, the Cardinal is also coming off a loss to San Diego State, which some might say was due to “paralysis by analysis”. An Aztec alum friend of mine said Stanford coach David Shaw simply overanalyzed the SDSU game plan. They usually keep it on the ground, but decided to air it out instead. Hence, we’re both going into Saturday hungry for a W. The nutty thing is we actually have a better record than Stanford at the moment. Let’s look at what the ‘Furd brings to the table on offense.
Senior Keller Chryst is coming off a torn ACL from the 2016 season, when he handed over the reins to back up Ryan Burns. Between the two, they put together a double-digit win season. Burns is gone, but Chryst is back. He struggled last week against SDSU, going just 9-for-20 with 72 yards and two interceptions. His second interception put the final nail in the coffin with under a minute to go. Chryst had major trouble finding receivers, and as the upset alarms were going off, Chryst seemed to crumble under the pressure. I’m not sure I’d expect to see this again, but in college football, anything can happen. At this point, UCLA possesses the stronger of the two starting quarterbacks.
Don’t bother breathing a sigh of relief because Christian McCaffrey is gone, because Bryce Love has filled his rather large shoes nicely. He basically put on a one man offensive show against San Diego State, putting up 184 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries. He also put up 160 yards and a touchdown against Southern Cal two weeks ago. I FEAR for this guy. We haven’t been able to stop the run, and with the way our defense has been playing five yards off their opponents, Love is going to run up and down the field on Saturday. I do remember, however, that last year we were able to stop McCaffrey. It wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought it was going to be, and we actually had that game in hand (until the end, of course. Yet another signature let down...but I digress). Love is going to need help from the rest of the offense, though, if he wants to keep up with Rosen and the ever-evolving Bruin run game.
Last week, this was an area that Stanford struggled. Whether is was bad passes from Chryst or a lack of effort on the part of the receivers, the run game is what carried them against the Aztecs. Freshman Connor Wedington is leading the Cardinal with 10 receptions for 119 yards, and junior Trenton Irwin is right behind him with 10 receptions of his own for 113 yards. Chryst has spread his passes out over 10 different receivers, with Bryce Love even recording one for himself. This is an area that I’m sure the Andrew Luck Director of Offense has been hitting hard this week. No matter how they struggled last Saturday, our defense needs to cover these guys as if they’re all Heisman candidates. I’d never take a weak spot on Stanford’s offense for granted.
This has always been an impressive unit for Stanford. They had a rough 2016 season with injuries, but even so, this didn’t seem to affect them that much. The o-line allowed a whopping 34 sacks, second highest in the conference in 2016. They have come back in 2017 with some movement, with David Bright moving from left tackle to left guard, Nate Herbig moving left guard to right guard, Jesse Burkett at center, and A.T. Hall at right tackle. Freshman Walker Little was one of the biggest names (both figuratively and literally) in Stanford’s freshman class this year, and he’ll be occupying the left tackle position. Pass coverage is usually Stanford’s strong suit, so our defense is really going to have their work cut out for them if they want to have any hope of sacking Chryst.
I never feel good going up to Palo Alto. We’ve never been able to play well there, and that damn dancing tree bugs the heck out of me. I really wish I could say with confidence that this was the year that Mora finally shakes the Stanford monkey on his back, but with a weak defense, this is going to be a tall order. It will be up to Rosen and the offense to bring it home. If this happens, I say we start Rosen’s Heisman campaign.