(15) Stanford (6-2) at Colorado (1-7)|
Saturday, Nov. 3, 2 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 15th-ranked Stanford Cardinal bring their stingy defense to
Boulder in an attempt to tame the hapless Colorado Buffaloes in a Pac-12
conference matchup Saturday afternoon.
Although the 24-17 score indicated a close game, the Cardinal really dominated
the line of scrimmage in their win over Washington State last weekend.
Stanford held the Cougars to minus-16 yards rushing which was the third fewest
yards rushing allowed by a Stanford team in school history. Even with that
effort, head coach David Shaw knows his team was not at its best as the
Cougars racked up 401 yards through the air.
"We played to about 70-75 percent of our capabilities," Shaw said. "We did not
play as well as we practiced. We played hard, but the execution was lacking."
The Cardinal are now 6-2 overall and in the Pac-12 title race with a record of
4-1 in league play.
Colorado would more than likely trade for the type of effort that Stanford had
last weekend over what the Buffaloes have been putting together week-in and
week-out. The Buffaloes lost their fourth straight game in blowout fashion
last weekend, getting run off the field in a 70-14 loss to No. 2 Oregon. It
was the fourth straight loss of at least 28 points for Colorado and the fifth
this season. Colorado is only 1-7 overall.
Last season these squads squared off for the first time since 1993 as Colorado
made its debut in the Pac-12. Stanford's victory gave the Cardinal a 4-3
series advantage all-time.
Shaw is an old-school coach that likes to pound the ball on the ground and
play solid defense, which is just what Stanford has been this season. In a
conference filled with offenses that pick up yards at a torrid pace, the
Cardinal are near the middle offensively, ranking eighth in total offense
(366.0 ypg) and sixth in scoring (27.0 ppg). Stanford has relied more on the
run with 298 rushing attempts to 234 passing attempts.
When you have a running back like Stepfan Taylor to rely on, running the ball
often is a solid game plan. Taylor has rushed for 904 yards and six touchdowns
while taking on the bulk of the team's rushing responsibilities with 196
carries. No other player has more than 26. Taylor was bottled up against
Washington State though, rushing for only 58 yards on 21 carries.
Quarterback Josh Nunes has needed to have a reliable run game to lean on this
season. Although Nunes hasn't been awful by any means he hasn't been
particularly good either. Nunes has completed only 52.6 percent of his passes
for 1,620 yards and has just three more touchdown passes (10) than
interceptions (7). Nunes has been much more of a game-manager under center as
evidenced by his 7-for-15 passing effort for 136 yards and a touchdown last
Nunes has relied most heavily on tight end Zach Ertz in the passing game. Ertz
leads the team in just about every receiving category including receptions
(32), yards (525) and touchdowns (3). Taylor has contributed in the passing
game as well with the second-most receptions on the team (22).
The second ingredient to Shaw's gameplan is strong defense and although
Stanford is only the fifth ranked team in the conference in total defense
(354.2 ypg), the Cardinal have still been able to control the pace. Stanford
has been almost impossible to run against, with the Cardinal allowing a
conference-low 523 yards, while ranking second in points allowed (18.6 ppg).
Stanford's front seven has been devastating, tying for conference-highs in
tackles for loss (76) and sacks (32) with Arizona State.
Linebacker Chase Thomas is the leader of the defense and not just with his
team-high tackle total (48). Thomas is one of four players to have at least
9.5 tackles for loss with 9.5 exactly. Usual Amanam (10.0 tackles for loss,
4.0 sacks), Trent Murphy (11.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks) and Ben Gardner
(11.0 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks) have made the Cardinal a nightmare for
opposing offensive lines.
November might not seem like the right month for a quarterback controversy,
but for a Colorado team that has been unable to find answers, trying something
out of the ordinary isn't a crazy idea. Jordan Webb has been the starter all
season, but Nick Hirschman came in last week and completed 7-of-16 pass
attempts for 64 yards which topped Webb's performance (7-for-11, 31 yards).
"We will look at that," head coach Jones Embree said of the chances Herschman
could start next week. "I thought Nick played well. He did some things that
were decent. We've got to get better with some ball placement. We can help him
out too by catching it."
Embree is right about that, as Colorado's receivers have been less than
stellar as a group. Nelson Spruce is the team's leader but he certainly hasn't
blown away with his production, averaging 38.3 yards per game. Overall he has
29 receptions for 306 yards. Tyler McCulloch (22 receptions, 273 yards) is the
second option. Nick Kasa has been a reliable pass-catcher near the end
zone with seven touchdowns on only 17 total receptions.
Christian Powell is the leading rusher with 471 yards, while Tony Jones has
had 259 as Powell's backup. The two have probably been the best offensive
weapons Colorado has had with the pair each having games of 100-yard rushing
Colorado is ranked last in the conference in total offense (319.4 ypg) and
last in scoring offense (18.1 ppg).
The Colorado defense has been no better, ranking last in both total defense
(505.0 ypg) and scoring defense (46.0 ppg). That's not the only spot where
Colorado has been last in the conference, with the team also posting the worst
marks in opponent red zone conversion rate, with teams scoring at an
incredible 94.1 percent clip.
Chidera Uzo-Diribe gives Colorado a solid pass rusher with six sacks this
season and 30 tackles overall. Terrel Smith (65) and Derrick Webb (64) have
been the team leaders in tackles. Each is averaging more than eight tackles
All Colorado has going for it in this matchup is homefield advantage. Stanford
will be able to get after the quarterback and could keep Colorado's already
weak offense off the scoreboard completely.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Stanford 31, Colorado 6
10/31 10:43:12 ET