Brock Huard’s keys for the No. 10 Huskies to beat No. 7 Stanford
No. 10 Washington (4-0 overall, 1-0 Pac-12) vs. No. 7 Stanford (3-0, 2-0)
• Where: Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium
• Kickoff: 6 p.m. Friday
• TV: ESPN
• Line: Washington by 3.5.
Washington at a glance: The Huskies got their run game straightened out in a big way last week at Arizona with junior Lavon Coleman breaking out for a career-high 181 yards to lead a 352-yard effort on the ground. The air game took a backseat, however, with Jake Browning throwing for just 160 yards on 14 of 21 passing, and UW needed overtime to escape the desert with a 35-28 win and its undefeated record intact. That was the Huskies’ first real test of the year, and while they passed it, the grading curve gets exponentially steeper with Stanford coming to Montlake to determine supremacy in the Pac-12 North in the first battle of top-10 teams at Husky Stadium since 1997.
Stanford at a glance: Led by lightning quick superstar Christian McCaffrey, the Cardinal offense has no lack of explosiveness. They’ve also been battle-tested, picking up wins over Kansas State (26-13), USC (27-10) and UCLA (22-13) so far. Stanford’s defense is obviously nothing to sleep on, either, having allowed no more than one touchdown in a game yet this season. Head-to-head, the Cardinal have won three straight over the Huskies going back to 2013.
Brock Huard’s key No. 1 for UW: Stay disciplined when defending against McCaffrey. “I think the biggest key, and UW coach Chris Petersen talked about it this week in his press conference, is that every guy has to do their job. The Stanford offense is the exact opposite on the spectrum from today’s zone read schemes, but the Cardinal still demand the same thing, and that is that you have to be incredibly disciplined and you have to do your job. They’re what we call a gap offense or a gap power scheme because they’re always trying to gain one extra gap and get McCaffrey out. If you try to do someone else’s job and jump in their gap then you’re in double trouble, and that’s where he really makes you pay. Petersen said as much coming out of the Arizona game, that some of the defensive players tried to do other people’s jobs, and that can’t happen or McCaffrey will get loose. Further remarkable is the fact that McCaffrey has not had a rushing touchdown in any true road game. He’s had plenty in neutral environments like the Rose Bowl and Pac-12 championship games, but never, ever in a true road game, and the Huskies sure hope to keep it that way.”
Huard’s key No. 2: With McCaffrey returning for Stanford and John Ross returning for UW, winning on special teams is a must. “Special teams are going to be absolutely critical. That’s where I think some of the University of Washington’s depth and some of its overall team speed has to come to play, and that is where you would hope some of Stanford’s injuries, in particular starting cornerbacks Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder, start to challenge the Cardinal in their depth. In a game of this magnitude, you’re looking at a three-point spread, you’ve got difference-makers in all phases of the game, and Stanford has been there and done it before. The Cardinal are the defending champs, and if you’re Washington you cannot afford to give up a game-changing – and really field-position-changing play – in the special teams area.”
Huard’s key No. 3: On offense, attack Stanford’s inexperience on the perimeter. “Arizona’s not a very good front and the Huskies took advantage and ran right at them and right through them last week, but it’s going to be a very different animal when you face Stanford. The Cardinal’s front is strong, they are grown men, and there is no program that develops its personnel and talent better in this conference than Stanford. It will be a much more difficult challenge to push the Cardinal around and create the movement needed for the power run scheme that the Huskies had success with last week against Arizona. I think you’re going to see more jet sweeps, I think you’re going to see them challenge the perimeter more, and they’re absolutely going to test the two backup corners out on the edge. You have to feel good about your speed and experience in the matchup if you’re the Huskies vs. the inexperience there at Stanford.”