Stanford Cardinal (3-0 SU, 3-0 ATS) vs. Washington Huskies (4-0 SU, 2-2 ATS)
College Football Week 5
Date/Time: Friday, September 30, 2016 at 9PM EST
Where: Husky Stadium, Seattle, Washington
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: STAN +3/WASH -3
Over/Under Total: 44
In big-time Pac-12 action, the Stanford Cardinal come to Seattle to face the Washington Huskies on Friday. These teams are both ranked in the top ten and are unbeaten, making this a game that not only has massive conference implications, but perhaps on a national scale, as well. Each team prevailed on the road this past week in tough games. Washington went to 4-0 with an overtime win over the Arizona Wildcats in their conference opener. The Cardinal beat UCLA to complete the LA sweep, with a 22-13 win over the Bruins at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
The Cardinal had it tough on Saturday, as was expected at an electric Rose Bowl environment. Offensively, they labored considerably with only three field goals until very late in the 4th quarter. QB Ryan Burns, while not prolific or even particularly effective for much of the game, was able to captain a late game-winning drive to take the lead late, with a fumble recovery late and a score making it look more lopsided than what it was. With Burns and this whole offense, winning a grinding-type come-from-behind game will probably serve them better as they head into Husky Stadium for what should be a pretty difficult road spot for the defending Pac-12 champions.
Against UCLA, the Cardinal got a good performance from Christian McCaffrey, but he didnít have his normal impactful game. At the same time, he will be the most-compelling player on the field in this game and he wonít stay quiet for long. In fact, heís due to explode with some big plays on offense and special teams. Again, senior Ryan Burns hasnít been very electric, having not surpassed 156 yards in three games, but that last drive on Saturday when he completed a go-ahead TD pass to JJ Arcega-Whiteside, showed that he can deliver in a pinch. They might need that this week. We are starting to see, however, that defenses that can focus on McCaffrey and keep him somewhat in-check should have some success, as the source of offensive production other than McCaffrey has been limited through three weeks.
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Still, with any good Stanford team, their calling card will usually be their defense. That side of the ball looks pretty good. Theyíve played some fairly good offenses in Kansas State, USC, and UCLA and theyíve given up only 36 combined points. And by playing those opponents, theyíve been tested to a greater extent than Washington, who has played Rutgers and two FCS opponents. That might not be the ideal preparation for a defense like the one Stanford will be showing up with at Husky Stadium on Friday.
With three games at home to open the season, Washington took to the road for the first time on Saturday, notching what was a tough win over Arizona. They were 16-point favorites and needed overtime to win. That not might look good heading into this pivotal game, but in this conference, you sometimes just have to win the game and move on to the next step, as even low-end and middling conference teams can sneak up and get you on any given week.
Washington QB Jake Browning was able to manufacture the tough road win on Saturday. Just as Stanford and Ryan Burns were perhaps able to benefit from the tough win at the Rose Bowl, so should Washington get a push from having to work for the win after being eased into the 2016 season with their first three games. On Saturday, Browning was not able to really see this offense take flight aerially, with short passes being the order of the day. Dante Pettis, Chico McClatcher, and John Ross all made contributions. Ross caught a TD and ran in another touchdown score. Pettis caught the overtime TD for the win. And on the ground, they showed they can run the ball too. While not getting the same attention as McCaffrey, the 1-2 punch of Lavon Coleman and Myles Gaskin looks to be an impactful one. Coleman was excellent with 185 yards on only 11 scampers, with Gaskin chipping in with a useful 85 yards.
The game against Arizona was a grind, with it going back-and-forth until the end. The Washington defense allowed nearly 500 yards and was run ragged at times. In the offense-heavy Pac-12, thatís a part of doing business. And itís been a long time since the Huskies were in a really big game like this. The Husky throng has been thirsting for a game like this for years. On Saturday, this defense will have that working for them. And we will all be reminded how vociferous they can be in Husky Stadium. After struggling in the Rose Bowl, the Cardinal are facing a tough patch here turning around on a short week and heading in the opposite direction up to northern Washington for a really tough road game.
Stanford is a more-visible team based on their recent success and the more-demanding and marquee games theyíve had this season. Washington is perhaps the lowest-profile top-ten team in college football. Combine that with a performance on Saturday that did not meet expectations, itís easy to defer to Stanford and assume their greater familiarity in big games and having Christian McCaffrey will be enough to win. Perhaps people have trouble identifying exactly why Washington is so highly-rated. In Chris Petersenís first game of a high magnitude with Washington since taking over after a successful Boise State tenure, I see the Huskies showing why they are ranked highly and getting out of there with the tough win and cover.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Iím betting on the Washington Huskies minus 3 points.
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