Stanford Football

(Photo Courtesy of Daniel Hartwig)

by Andrew Skaggs

Stanford has steamrolled through its first four opponents by the tune of 165-78. The win over No. 22 Arizona State was nice and all, but for the most part an undefeated first month was the expectation for the No. 5 team in the country. While the Cardinal took care of business in September, the way they handle October and the first week of November will determine the fate of their football team. Will they become a major player in the National Championship race? Will they lose one game and “settle” for another BCS Bowl appearance? Or will they collapse like we haven’t seen before and fall back in the competitive Pac-12 North? On the morning of Friday, November 8 th , we should have a pretty good idea about all of this.

Stanford’s next 5 opponents:

Saturday, October 5 th vs. #15 Washington

Saturday, October 12 th @ Utah

Saturday, October 19 th vs. #12 UCLA

Saturday, October 26 th @ Oregon State

Thursday, November 7 th vs. #2 Oregon

The gauntlet begins this weekend in Palo Alto as Stanford hosts the 15 th -ranked team in the country in Washington. I will have an in-depth preview of this game on Thursday, so I won’t go into detail about this matchup until then. Stay tuned.

Trap Games

Wedged in between Stanford’s three home games against top-15 opponents are a pair of “trap games” that could present problems for the Cardinal. If Stanford can get past Washington on Saturday, they travel to Utah with a potential top-10 matchup looming just a week later against UCLA in Palo Alto. If you looked up “trap game” in the sports dictionary this there would be a picture of this 5-game stretch for Stanford. Utah is 3-1 with impressive victories over in-state rivals Utah State (lost by 3 at USC) and BYU (beat Texas 40-21). The fact that the game is in Utah is no joke either, as the altitude is always a factor and the Utes are known to have a raucous crowd (albeit a sober raucous crowd).

Coincidentally, Utah’s only loss of the season came at the hands of Oregon St., the other “trap game” on Stanford’s schedule. This time Stanford travels to Corvallis after hosting UCLA a week prior and just 11 days before the “Game of the Year” in the Pac-12 where Stanford hosts Oregon in a primetime Thursday night game. The Beavers entered the season ranked in the top-25 only to lose to FCS powerhouse Eastern Washington on opening weekend. Oregon St. QB Sean Mannion is averaging 403.6 passing yards per game to go along with 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions. While both Utah and Oregon St. don’t matchup to Stanford in terms of talent and coaching, the location of these games as well as the timing in between big games could present a problem for the Cardinal.

Big Games

The October 19 th matchup against UCLA will more than likely feature two top-10 teams and have major implications on the Pac-12 title race as well as BCS Bowl implications. The Bruins travel to Utah this Thursday before hosting Cal next weekend. Two wins would put them at 5-0 on the season and 2-0 in Pac-12 play, including an impressive victory at Nebraska on September 14 th . The Cardinal and the Bruins both feature impressive sophomore quarterbacks in Kevin Hogan and Brett Hundley. This matchup has turned into the premiere matchup between Northern California and Southern California as Cal and USC are going through rebuilding stages.

A win for the Bruins would almost assure them of representing the Pac-12 South in the conference championship and establish them as a serious contender in the BCS National Championship hunt. A win for Stanford would allow them to keep pace with Oregon in the Pac-12 North and assure that theirmatchup against the Ducks would feature two top-5 teams and have HUGE BCS implications.

Speaking of the Ducks, they travel to Palo Alto on November 7 th for a Thursday night matchup with the Cardinal. This winner of this game has determined who represents the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl in each of the last three seasons. Stanford derailed Oregon’s National Championship dreams last season, so revenge will certainly be on the minds of the Ducks and their fans. In a matchup of contrasting styles, Oregon likes to push the tempo and score a ton of points while Stanford plays a slower pace predicated on a power run game and stout defense. The winner of this game will almost certainly win the Pac-12 North and most likely get a chance to play in the BCS National Championship barring a setback.

The season starts now for Stanford football as the next five weeks will determine the fate of the season. Strap in your seatbelts for some great Pac-12 football in October and November.

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