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Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Stanford questions worth asking

By Kevin Gemmell

Will the gadgets continue? Variety is the spice of life. And so far, David Shaw and the Stanford offense have been a bucket of garlic marinated in Tabasco. In four games, we've seen a flea flicker, an end-around wide receiver pass to the quarterback and several Wildcat formations with running back Tyler Gaffney at the helm. The question among some in the press box is "why are they showing this against these teams?" To which I respond, "so future opponents have to prepare for it." They might never stray from the playbook basics for the rest of the season. But the more time USC, Washington and Oregon have to spend preparing for Gaffney the quarterback and Andrew Luck the wide receiver, the less time they are spending on how to defend the Stepfan Taylor off-tackle power.

Did the run defense take a morale hit? They dropped in the rankings. Granted, it was first in the nation to fourth in the nation. And as the saying goes, when you're on top, you have nowhere to go but down. I'm curious to see how the run-stoppers -- who still put on a pretty good show against a run-happy UCLA team -- respond to giving up 141 yards on the ground. But this week probably won't be too good of a gauge. Colorado comes in with one of the worst rushing attacks in the country (105th out of 120 FBS teams), averaging just 101.4 yards per game on the ground.

Are penalties going to be an issue? We didn't see much of them in the first three games, just 11 for 100 yards. But Saturday night the Cardinal were flagged eight times for 70 yards. And it wasn't just your run-of-the-mill, garden variety offside penalties. There were pass interference calls (offensive and defensive), unsportsmanlike calls and mental mistakes in the red zone. Discipline starts from the head and works its way down. You can bet Shaw took that as a personal reflection.

Will we ever see an interception? Almost had one against UCLA, but a questionable pass interference call negated what would have been the first pick of the season. While Colorado has trouble on the ground, the Buffs have been able to move the ball effectively in the air. They are 36th nationally in passing offense (265 yards per game) and they don't make a lot of mistakes. Quarterback Tyler Hansen has a solid touchdown-to-interception ratio of 11-2. But his accuracy hasn't been great at just 56.6 percent. What's going to happen first? Another Luck pick or one from his defense? We might be waiting a while on both. The list of FBS teams without an interception continues to shrink. It's down to three. Utah State, Akron and Stanford.

Repeat sellout? Good fans show up for the big games. Great fans show up for the not-so-great games. And Colorado hasn't exactly been a heavy hitter in its inaugural season in the Pac-12. There's no real rivalry (last meeting was 1993) and there are no real external storylines to this game -- save the nation's longest winning streak at 12 games -- so I'm wondering if the turnout will be as raucous as it was last week.