A few things kicking around in my head as Stanford prepares for No. 25 Washington this week.
Does Stanford need another wide receiver to step up? It seems almost counter-intuitive -- the fact that a team can get by without a go-to wide receiver. But do they really need one? I'm loving the way Griff Whalen has turned it on the last couple of weeks. He's been great. But we're still unsure on Chris Owusu's status (hope to know more later today) and neither Corey Gatewood, Drew Terrell or Jamal-Rashad Patterson have really distinguished themselves with the few opportunities they have had. But with the the tight ends Stanford has -- and the way they split them out as receivers -- and the way they incorporate fullback Ryan Hewitt into the passing game, I'm wondering if they are OK. My 14 years covering all levels of football tell me no. But my eyes are telling me something different.
Did anyone expect the offensive line to be this good this quick? More about the line (and wide receivers) later this week, but I can't get over how quickly this group has turned the corner. Are they perfect? No. But with three new starters, they were a huge question mark before the season started. Now they lead the nation in fewest sacks allowed. In just six weeks, they have become one of the strengths of the team. I didn't think it would happen this fast.
Can Stanford create pressure? The Cardinal are one of the best in the country at pressuring the quarterback and getting sacks. That's a testament to the penetration of the defensive line, the speed of the linebackers and cover skills of the secondary. But Washington is pretty good at keeping quarterback Keith Price clean. He's only been sacked six times this year for an average of two sacks per game. Pretty good, but not great. Price isn't a huge threat to run (at least he hasn't shown much of it this season) so if the Cardinal can keep doing what they are doing, they should be able to create some third-and-longs.
As with every home game, will the fan support be there? This is the last home game until THE BIG ONE. The Cardinal go back on the road in consecutive weeks -- at USC and then at Oregon State -- before returning home for the epic showdown that's been circled in red on all of our calenders. Starting with Oregon on Nov. 12, the Cardinal close out the regular season with three straight home games. The time to be loud is now.
Still perfect? Stanford has not trailed the entire season, winning all six of its games wire-to-wire. You have to go back to the second quarter of the Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech, when the Hokies held a 9-7 edge over the Cardinal for 3 minutes, 50 seconds. The Cardinal have blanked their opponents 50-0 in the opening quarter. Is this the week that streak ends?