BRENT STECKER

No. 10 Huskies gearing up for showdown with Christian McCaffrey-led No. 7 Stanford

Sep 26, 2016, 2:55 PM | Updated: Sep 29, 2016, 12:55 pm
Chris Petersen on Stanford's Christian McCaffrey: "He’s unique and rare. You don’t see guys lik...
Chris Petersen on Stanford's Christian McCaffrey: "He’s unique and rare. You don’t see guys like this often." (AP)
(AP)

It’s the game that’s been circled on the Washington Huskies’ calendar since last season ended.

The chance for the now No. 10 Dawgs to announce that they have arrived. The chance to prove that all of the offseason hype was warranted. The chance to put themselves in the driver’s seat in their push for their first conference title since 2000.

When No. 7 Stanford rolls into Husky Stadium for Friday night’s huge Pac-12 showdown, it will be the first meeting in 19 years between two top-10 teams on Montlake. It almost didn’t work out that way, though. Both the Huskies and Cardinal barely survived their matchups on Saturday, Washington needing overtime in Arizona to leave the desert with a 35-28 win, and Stanford not taking the lead for good until 24 seconds were left on the clock in its 22-13 victory over UCLA.

They’re both still undefeated, though, so the unquestioned biggest game of the Chris Petersen era for UW is just days away. And to that end, the Husky head coach is well aware of what it means for his team.

“Stanford’s an awesome program,” Petersen said Monday during his weekly press conference. “This isn’t just an awesome team. They’ve had an awesome program for a while now. They know how to do it. They know how to do it right and play good football, win championships and the whole thing across the board. So it’s a great opportunity for the kids, for everybody playing in a game like this.”

Of course, it helps having a superstar to keep momentum rolling for a program, and that’s what the Cardinal have in Christian McCaffrey, the do-everything running back/receiver/returner who was last year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up and is a front-runner for the award this year.

“They’re smart coaches, because they do whatever they need to do to get him the ball. Punt returning, kick returning, wide receiver, wildcat quarterback, hand him the ball,” Petersen said. “He’s great with the ball in his hands. Unbelievable vision, extremely explosive, and maybe as patient as anybody I’ve seen. Whether he’s returning kicks or handed the ball in the backfield, those characteristics just show up, and it’s a unique combination.

“So many times it looks like there’s not really anything there, then he’ll find it. And then he’s not going down with one guy just kind of grabbing a hold of him. He’s not going down. You’ve got to tackle this guy with multiple guys. He’s unique and rare. You don’t see guys like this that often.”

Stanford doesn’t see defenses as stout as Washington’s all that often, either, which is what makes Friday night’s battle so intriguing.

“We’ve been looking at this part of our schedule for a long time,” Petersen said. “… We’re excited. We’re excited to have an awesome crowd and have a really good game.”

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No. 10 Huskies gearing up for showdown with Christian McCaffrey-led No. 7 Stanford