No. 8 Stanford Cardinal (3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS) vs. Washington Huskies (2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS)
College Football Week 5
Date/Time:Thursday September 27th, 9:00PM Eastern
Where:CenturyLink Field Seattle, W.A
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Stan -7/Wash +7
Over/Under Total: 49.5
For the first time this season on Thursday night, college football fans will be treated to Pac-12 action when the Washington Huskies attempt to defend their home turf against the visiting no. 8 Stanford Cardinal. The 2-1 Huskies were blown out by the no.3 LSU Tigers 41-3 just two weeks ago and hope to play much better against another highly ranked opponent this Thursday night. On the other side of the field, many people did not know what to expect from the Cardinal in the post Andrew Luck era. However despite a shaky 20-17 victory over San Jose State in the opener, Stanford has played very well and of course shocked the nation with their upset over Southern California two weeks ago. Now Stanford will have the opportunity to prove that they will be a frontrunner in the Pac-12 as they move forward in conference action starting with the Huskies this Thursday night.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, they have not fared well against the Cardinal in recent years. Washington is just 1-6-1 ATS in their last 8 games against Stanford and lost 4 straight SU. In the last two meetings, the Cardinal has blown out the Huskies by a combined score of 106-21. For those reasons along with the fact Stanford just recently pulled off a big win against USC, the betting public may have expected Stanford to be at least double digit favorite in this game. However, Washington typically plays really well at home where they have won 9 of their last 10 games SU. Therefore, odds makers have opened betting action with Stanford laying just 7 points when they travel to Seattle this Thursday.
The main concern I have for Washington backers surrounds the Huskies’ offense. Washington’s offense currently ranks 109th in the FBS averaging a measly 313 yards per game. Statistical numbers are often inflated early in the year but Washington has played just 1 quality opponent this season in LSU. In that game, the Huskies offense was held to just 183 total yards and never sustained any type of offensive rhythm. QB Keith Price completed just 17 of 36 passing for 157 yards and a pick. Not to mention the Huskies gained just 26 rushing yards throughout the entire game. Now I know LSU has one of the top defenses in the nation that can make any offense look bad. However it is still safe to say, Washington’s offense has not been impressive thus far in 2012 even in their other two games against inferior opponents.
For the Huskies’ offense to keep them in the ball game or even make the plays needed for a victory, the offense will have to convert 3rd downs. Washington has converted just 9 of 28 (32%) third down conversions in the last two games. The Huskies have to find a way to convert those key downs and keep the chains moving. The Huskies’ rushing totals are among the nation’s worse hence the 3rd down troubles in short yardage situations. Therefore, I believe Keith Price must play very well this Thursday to give Washington a shot at victory. Price is a guy that rarely makes big mistakes with the football and sports a pretty accurate completion percentage (62%). Price must step up to compensate for the rushing woes and take control of this offense in effort to move the Huskies’ offense down the field on a more consistent basis. If Price can hit the intermediate passing routes, perhaps the Huskies’ can keep the chains moving even if the ground game fails yet again.
Since I talked about the concerns for Washington backers, I will also discuss the benefactors as well. The Huskies defense can and should keep this game competitive. Washington’s defense has been rather solid and they will be contesting a rather average Stanford offense. That’s right there is nothing special about Stanford’s offense or at least from what I have seen so far in 2012. The Cardinal has averaged just 353 total yards per game and they are far from the quick striking threat of year’s past. Instead Stanford is backed by a stellar defense and an offense that protects the football very well, which is still a tough combination to beat. The Cardinal defense currently ranks 1st in rushing defense allowing just 41 yards per game and 14th in scoring allowing just 14 points per game.
Stanford also supports a +2.00 turnover ratio per game which is among the best turnover margins in the country. The defense does a great job of forcing turnovers and the offense does an even better job of protecting the football. Junior QB Josh Nunes has not been overly impressive by any stretch of the imagination. Nunes has completed just 53% passing on the year for 615 yards with 6 scores and 3 picks. For now Stanford’s passing attack has not been reliable and the offense has put their faith in running back Stepfan Taylor. Taylor has racked up 338 yards through 3 games with 3 touchdowns on the year. Since the offense has resorted to relying on the ground attack, Taylor has become the workhorse for the offense. Therefore do not be surprised if Taylor gets 25 plus touches. If this game turns out to be a defensive battle as I hinted previously, Taylor could possibly be the deciding factor for Stanford’s success on the offensive side of the football.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I think Stanford’s extra week off will play big dividends on the short week for the Huskies. I think this will be a slow scoring game early with Stanford pulling away in the 2nd half. Take Stanford -7
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