The first season of Pac-12 football features two coaches in their first years. It's safe to say that Stanford's David Shaw and Colorado's Jon Embree are in very different situations.
Andrew Luck and the seventh-ranked Cardinal seek to extend the nation's longest win streak to 13 games Saturday when they try to hand the lowly Buffaloes a 19th straight road loss.
Shaw took over when Jim Harbaugh left to coach the San Francisco 49ers. The former Cardinal offensive coordinator inherited a team that went 12-1 in 2010 and became a preseason national contender when Heisman Trophy runner-up Luck opted to return to school.
Embree, meanwhile, was hired to resurrect a program that had endured five straight losing seasons heading into its first year in the Pac-12.
The Buffaloes (1-4, 0-1) lost their final 13 Big 12 road games and will be playing their first game away from home in their new conference against a player Embree calls "the Franchise."
"He has all the things that you look for and then you talk about the intangibles, him being at a school like Stanford and what he does academically," said Embree, who coached in the NFL over the last four years. "And then overall his grasp of the offense, what they ask him to do, makes him a pretty complete package."
Luck put all those skills on display in last Saturday's 45-19 home win over UCLA. He completed 23 of 27 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns and also caught a 51-yard score from wide receiver Drew Terrell.
That kind of efficiency is why Shaw said he has ceded control of the offense to the player who's a near lock to be the top overall selection in the NFL draft.
"We feel we have a phenomenal quarterback," said Shaw, who claims that Luck can play five different positions, if needed. "I don't know if there are too many college quarterbacks that can truly call the game. It's not coming from the sideline. It's coming from him on the field."
Luck has 17 touchdown passes to two interceptions in 10 career conference home games. His 24 victories overall as a starter have tied Steve Stenstrom's school record for a quarterback.
"We want to make it challenging on ourselves because we know that's going to play an advantage," Luck said. "I think that's why a lot of guys come to Stanford. To be challenged both academically and athletically. It's fun to be in that offense."
Stanford (4-0, 2-0) is seeking its first 5-0 start since 1951 and can match the school record by winning 13 in a row for the first time since 1939-41.
Colorado owns the Pac-12's second-best passing defense, allowing 222.0 yards per game. That's despite being forced to use tailback Brian Lockridge and receiver Jason Espinoza at cornerback due to injuries.
The Buffaloes are eighth in the conference in yielding 127.4 yards per game on the ground and are wary of a Stanford rushing attack that has averaged 197.5 yards and scored 11 touchdowns.
"Well, you have to stop the run first," Embree said. "That's a misnomer with Andrew Luck, you think you have to be able to stop the pass. If you don't stop their run, look out. They are a power running team, they're a very physical team, they want it to be a street fight."
Keeping Luck off the field should be difficult since Colorado owns the 15th-worst rushing attack in the FBS, averaging 101.4 yards. The Buffaloes, however, gained a season-high 161 yards on the ground in last Saturday's 31-27 loss to Washington State.
Colorado will be hard-pressed to bounce back after blowing a 10-point lead in the final 2:35, prompting Embree to challenge his team in the locker room afterward.
"I came from a high school program that was a losing program too, and I'm tired of it. It gets old. I want to win," linebacker Douglas Rippy said. "When you walk around on campus, people bug you about what happened in the game. I'm just ready to win."
These teams have split six matchups and have not met since 1993.