We haven’t really had any marquee Thursday or Friday night games in college football this season yet. That will change tonight, as two heavyweights are set to do battle in Seattle. The 7th ranked Stanford Cardinal will collide with the 10th ranked Washington Huskies. As far as playoff implications go, this is a pretty important game. Both come into tonight undefeated after both avoided near upsets a week ago. UCLA had one last dying gasp to down the Cardinal, but it ended in a Stanford scoop-and-score to end the game, resulting in a cover for Stanford. My sympathies go out to those who had UCLA in that one. It was a 3-point game before that play, then pandemonium ensued for those who had money on the game. Note that the spread was Stanford -3. Washington were in Tucson last week and struggled, coming one field goal away from losing to Arizona.
Washington edged the Wildcats in overtime, but Arizona bypassed a chip-shot field goal early in the 1st quarter, instead getting stuffed on 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line. The Huskies didn’t have their best performance, yet were able to escape Tucson with a 35-28 win. They won the game but just looked off all game long. They could have blown Arizona out, but the offense never really found that groove they had the previous three weeks. Mind you, Washington didn’t play the best teams, but plays were there to be made against Arizona and they couldn’t capitalize.
Most notably, quarterback Jake Browning missed a ton of throws. I know he’s being compared to Kellen Moore, the quarterback who Chris Petersen groomed into a college football record breaker. However, from that snapshot last week, Browning can’t be missing those many throws to be compared to Moore. Moore doesn’t have the strongest arm for the NFL, but there is no denying how accurate he is. The Washington offensive line wasn’t all that good either, playing against a banged up front-seven who had to resort to multiple backups. The Huskies have a much better defense staring at them this week. Browning is going to have to make the throws he missed last week, tonight against Stanford if they’re going to win.
Stanford Cardinal vs. Washington Huskies NCAAF Betting Odds:
vs. Washington -3(-105)
Odds provided by Bovada.lv
Stanford vs. Washington Pick:
If Washington has the same offensive effort against Arizona, Stanford will win and win convincingly. We have to assume that Washington was looking ahead a bit, and Petersen is saving some tricks up his sleeve for this one. The game plan on defense for Stanford will be to slow John Ross down. He can do it all, and in a lot of ways, is the next T.Y. Hilton. Hilton rushed, threw, caught, and ran a ball back in one game while at FIU to set a college record. Ross has that unique ability to spring free on an end-around and land in the end zone, or go deep across the middle of the field, and also return kicks. Washington quarterback, Jake Browning, has passed for 14 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. It wasn’t like he was turning the ball over last week, he just wasn’t connecting down field.
Stanford has allowed an average of 12 points per game this season. It wasn’t like it was against a bunch of creampuffs either, not great teams but not bad, with wins over Kansas State, USC, and UCLA. Stanford plays old school, physical smash mouth football. They are a successful program because of the intensity and physical nature they impose on others. In an era of soft defenses and air-raid offenses, Stanford brings it back a few decades to when teams lined up and ran the ball down your throat and tackled.
Christian McCaffrey spearheads the Stanford offense. If you know college football, you know who McCaffrey is. He’s a favorite to win the Heisman, and has gotten off to a nice start in 2016. McCaffrey has rushed for 436 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 119 yards receiving and another touchdown. Ryan Burns got the call at quarterback this season, after Kevin Hogan spent four years at Stanford. Burns takes over for Hogan, who took over for Andrew Luck. Burns will get another test against Washington this week, a few days after he played well against UCLA. Burns has thrown for 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. His main objective is to hand the ball off to McCaffrey and watch him go to work.
There is something really fishy in this game. The public, upwards of 65%, are backing the Stanford Cardinal. If I were basing this pick off last week, I’d be on Stanford. However, basing picks off last week is way dangerous. The line movement in this game doesn’t make too much sense. At most shops the line is -3.5 which opened at -3. Bodog and Bovada are still at -3 with juice on Stanford. It’s also important to note that two starting cornerbacks will be absent for Stanford. I see Burns getting frustrated against a solid Washington defense this week, and Browning springing enough plays to win by around a touchdown. Trap if I ever saw one, Washington covers tonight in Seattle.
PICK: WASHINGTON -3 (-105)