Stanford – Preview
This could get ugly.
“Their stats are Play Station kind of numbers” is what Colorado head coach said of the Washington State offense last week. Everyone knew, though, that the numbers the Cougars had put up in their first three games were against suspect opposition. They were also numbers put up by a backup senior quarterback – on a team which had won only a five games in three seasons. There was reason for optimism as the Colorado defense took on the Cougars and Marshall Lobbestael.
And yet, the Buffs still lost, with Lobbestael posting 376 yards passing and three touchdowns.
Enter Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck – a quarterback who actually knows what he’s doing.
Comparing the statistics of Lobbestael to Luck would be like comparing Drew Carey to Cary Grant, and noting Lobbestael went for almost 400 against the decimated Colorado secondary … you may want to watch Saturday’s game through a space between your fingers, as you shield your eyes from what is unfolding before you.
Still, there is little likelihood that Stanford and the Pac-12 will give the Colorado defense a last minute reprieve and postpone the game until say, 2013. “We’re going to just keep preparing, go out there, and do the best we can,” said Embree this week. “There are no breaks in the Pac-12. Every week, you’ve got to bring it.”
With that it mind, let’s bring on this week’s “T.I.P.S.” …
T – Talent
Are there any superlatives left for Andrew Luck?
The Stanford quarterback, the consensus choice as the number one pick in the NFL draft next April, is so good that fans of struggling teams in the NFL are already cheering for hometown teams to lose this fall. “Suck for Luck” has become the phrase of choice in several NFL cities – and the season is only a quarter complete.
What will the worst team in the NFL in 2011 have to look forward to in 2012?
Here goes …
Andrew Luck was the Pac-10′s Offensive Player-of-the-Year last fall, and was the runner-up for the Heisman trophy. Luck has a 24-5 career record as a starter, and has thrown for 6,926 yards and 56 touchdowns. This season, Luck has completed a ridiculous 71.4% of his passes, with 11 touchdowns and only one interception.
Against UCLA last weekend, Luck was a tidy 23-of-27 (that’s 85%, folks) for 227 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-19 laugher against UCLA. Luck also had a highlight reel one-handed catch, his second career reception.
Oh, and did I mention Luck can also run with the football? Luck has rushed for 865 career yards on 127 carries (6.8 avg.), with six rushing touchdowns. Included in these totals are three career rushes going for over 50 yards.
The Buffs would be in for a long afternoon if they were up against Luck and ten guys from the Cardinal lacrosse team, but Stanford has a number of other weapons. Junior running back Stephan Taylor is averaging over 100 yards rushing per game, with over 100 yards in both Pac-12 conference games (153 v. Arizona; 112 v. UCLA). In 30 career games, Taylor has 21 rushing touchdowns. “You’ve got to stop the run first,” said Embree about game-planning against Stanford. “I think that’s the misnomer with having Andrew Luck, you have to go in there thinking you’ve got to stop the pass. If you don’t stop their run, look out. They’re a power running team; they’re a very physical team … It’s a street fight when you play them.”
The receiving corps is led by senior Chris Owusu, who has 22 catches for 275 yards and two touchdowns this fall.
And then there are the tight ends.
Stanford has a trio of tight ends – Coby Fleener; Zach Ertz; and Levine Toilolo – which are the envy of every other program in the nation. The group, which averages 6’6″, 255-pounds, are athletic enough to plow the road for the running game, while also fast and nimble enough to make life impossible for opposing linebackers and safeties. The group has accounted for nine of Stanford’s 12 receiving touchdowns this season.
Overall, the Stanford offense has been very balanced. The Cardinal is 31st in rushing offense nationally, and 32nd in passing offense – and a scary 7th in scoring offense, at 45.8 points per game.
Enough to make you want to check out that new Disney movie this Saturday? You know, the one about the dolphin with no tail?
Then listen to this concerning the Stanford defense.
The Cardinal defense gives up only 62.3 yards rushing per game (4th in the nation), with a total defense which is ranked 26th. Most importantly, Stanford is 6th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up only 11.5 points per game.
In all, Stanford leads the the Pac-12 in five defensive categories, including sacks and tackles for loss. In 16 quarters of play this season, the Stanford defense has held the opposition scoreless nine times. The defense has given up only five offensive touchdowns all season.
I – Intangibles
Colorado opened the week as a four-touchdown underdog to Stanford, and, with the information above, it is hard to argue with the line.
Do the Buffs have anything going for them?
Well no, not really.
The only factor weighing in the Buffs’ favor is that no one – hopefully including the Stanford players – gives Colorado a chance. Over-confidence would seem to be a possibility, but not a probability. Stanford has too much at stake, including a run for the national championship, to lose focus.
One could argue that UCLA had the best chance at catching Stanford off-guard … and the Bruins lost 45-19. The Cardinal players, coming off of a bye and facing a weak opponent in UCLA, were not particularly focused at the beginning of the game last Saturday. Still, despite playing without much emotion, Stanford still led at halftime, 17-7, and the outcome of the game was never really at issue.
Colorado can only hope for similar indifference.
This being the case, the Buffs – and their coaches – have no reason not to take chances against Stanford. The next trick play the Buffs run this fall will be the first. Colorado has run any number of screen passes, but there has been only one end around this fall, and no halfback options. Colorado has exactly one playmaker on offense – Paul Richardson. It’s time to get creative and find new ways to get the ball into Richardson’s hands.
P – Preparation / Schedule
The Buffs can’t even catch a break from the schedule makers.
Both teams are coming off of home games, and both travel next weekend, so there is no real advantage to either team.
It would have helped, though, if the Pac-12 had at least scheduled a bigger game for the Cardinal next weekend, so that the Buffs might catch the Cardinal players looking ahead. Instead of playing USC, Oregon, or Notre Dame next weekend, though, Stanford plays Washington State. The Cougars are an improved team - as the Buffs found out - but Stanford has won its last three games over Washington State by an average of 31 points, so the fear factor may not exactly be at a heightened state.
Perhaps if Colorado could just prepare to play a better first half on the road, the second half would take care of itself. In the Buffs’ first two true road games of 2011, Colorado has been out-scored by its opponents 37-7. On the year, even counting the CSU game in Denver and two home games, Colorado has been out-scored in the first quarter of its games by a shocking mark of 27-6.
Any help from the Cardinal in this category? Hardly. Stanford has out-scored its last 17 opponents, 378-117, in the first half – an average halftime score of 22-7. Stanford hasn’t trailed at halftime of any game since 2009, and in four games thus far in 2011 has not given up a single point in the first quarter.
So … time to set up some goals.
What say Colorado scores in the first quarter? That would be more than Arizona and UCLA managed to do (not to mention Duke and San Jose State).
Want another moral victory? How’s about being within two touchdowns at the break? That would be better than the 22-7 average of Stanford’s last 17 opponents.
Or this? Score in two of four quarters on Saturday. Getting shutout in only two of the four quarters would still be better than most Stanford opponents.
Or, there is this …
… play well, play hard. Compete.
Then move on to preparation for Washington.
S – Statistics
- Stanford has the longest winning streak of any FBS team in the nation, at 12 games, one short of the team record. In 1939-41, the Indians, as the team was then known, won 13 straight games.
- The Cardinal has won eight straight games at home, and has gone 19-2 in its last 21 games at Stanford Stadium.
- Despite the recent success, the Cardinal has had only five crowds in excess of capacity (50,000) since the stadium was renovated in 2006. In 2010, despite a 12-1 record, Stanford had only one sellout (v. USC).
- Want a category Stanford is not doing well in? Here it is: the Cardinal defense has yet to generate an interception this season, one of only three teams nationally without a pick.
- Stanford’s last 24 victories, dating back to 2009, have been by an average of 25.2 points.
- The Cardinal has yet to trail in any game this season, and has won 12 of its last 17 games without ever trailing in the game.
- As an indication that Stanford’s domination in college football is a recent phenomenon, Colorado currently has more alumni playing in the NFL (16) than does Stanford (15) … but look for that to change next fall.
- Colorado remains last in the nation in both kickoff returns and kickoff return defense.
- Colorado has scored 17 points in each of its last three road losses. In the Buffs’ last seven road losses, including the two this season, Colorado has been out-scored by an average score of 41-16.
- One last statistic … Stanford shut out three conference opponents last season, including two on the road (at UCLA, 35-0, at Washington 41-0, v. Oregon State, 38-0) … Just sayin’ …
- The Buffs are also last in the nation in penalties, with 48 in five games. In the first half of the past two games, the Buffs have shown improvement, with only one penalty in the first half v. Ohio State and two v. Washington State. In the second half, though, the Buffs returned to form, with eight in the second half of each game.
- Colorado first played Stanford in 1904, with the Indians coming by train to face Colorado in Denver. Stanford won the initial contest, 33-0, with the teams not playing again until 1977. Overall, the series is tied, three games apiece, with the last game being played in Palo Alto in 1993.
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