Thursday, July 5, 2012
Impact game: Pac-12 North
By Kevin Gemmell
Across the blog network and in conjunction with Blue Ribbon's previews today, we're taking a look at the impact game in each conference. We looked at the South Division earlier this morning, and now we turn our attention to the North.
Impact game: Stanford at Washington, Sept. 27
Significance: This was a much tougher call than the South's impact game of USC at Utah. Oregon is clearly the team to beat in the North, so all of the Ducks' games -- be it Cal, Stanford, Washington and even the unpredictability of Washington State -- are impactful. But only if Oregon loses. On paper and on film, Oregon is superior to all of the above.
So we then look at the mishmash of second-tier teams behind the Ducks -- Washington, Stanford and Cal. Any matchup involving these three would be worthy of this post. But we're going with Stanford at Washington because I think we're going to learn a lot about both of these teams -- and possibly start to see some shape to the division -- by the time this game is done.
For the Cardinal, who start the season with three straight at home, this will be their first road game with a new quarterback. And I don't care if you're going 20 minutes south to San Jose State or a couple of states north to Washington, starting on the road -- especially the first time -- is a lot harder than starting at home.
Both teams will have already faced elite competition by this point in the season -- the Huskies with their Sept. 8 jaunt to Baton Rouge and the Cardinal against USC on Sept. 15. For the Huskies, this kicks off the first of three straight games against the top three teams in our power rankings. They travel to Oregon the next week before hosting USC a week later. A victory for Washington will not only be a major confidence boost heading into the Oregon game, but it also gives us a good idea of who might be able to challenge the Ducks.
The same can be said for Stanford. A road win against a quality opponent can do wonders for the new QB's self-esteem. And for the Cardinal to be successful this year, the new guy is going to have to learn to win away from Palo Alto. Some of Stanford's toughest games are away from The Farm this year -- at Notre Dame, at Cal, at Oregon.
Last year's 65-21 thrashing by Stanford is still, no doubt, fresh in the minds of both teams. After giving up 446 yards on the ground to the Cardinal (among other defensive embarrassments), the Huskies have retooled the defense. This should be a pretty good measuring stick for both teams and will likely clear the North's as-of-now murky landscape.