Stanford (3-0) vs Washington (4-0)
Junior running back Christian McCaffrey is ranked second in the nation in rushing yards per game but is somehow considered to be experiencing a down season. He leads No. 6 Stanford into a Pac-12 showdown at No. 9 Washington on Friday night (Enter Contest). McCaffrey’s spectacular 2015 campaign in which he rushed for 2,019 yards and finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting has made his 145.3 rushing yards per game seem pedestrian but only San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey (199.7) has a better average. Washington coach Chris Petersen is well aware of who will be the best player on the field. Both teams won their last seven games dating back to last season. This contest is the Huskies’ opportunity to show they are for real and not unbeaten just because of a soft schedule.
Sophomore quarterback Jake Browning threw 14 touchdown passes against two interceptions this season while helping the Huskies rank 10th nationally in scoring offense at 45.8 points per game. Sophomore tailback Myles Gaskin leads the team with 302 rushing yards, but is being pushed from behind by junior Lavon Coleman. Coleman exploded for a career-best 181 yards on 11 carries in Saturday’s 35-28 overtime victory over Arizona.
Washington allowed a staggering 308 rushing yards to the Wildcats. It makes slowing Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey seem like more of a challenge for a defense led by junior linebacker Azeem Victor (team-best 31 tackles) and junior safety Budda Baker (20 stops). On the upside, the Huskies are tied for the national lead in takeaways (13) and have committed only four turnovers.
McCaffrey aims to help the Cardinal defeat the Huskies for the eighth time in the past nine meetings. He rushed for 436 yards and leads the Cardinal in receiving (12 catches for 119 yards). Despite opponents crowding the line to stop McCaffrey, you would believe that it helps opening up the passing game. Though senior quarterback Ryan Burns (395 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions) hasn’t displayed the ability to be a downfield passing threat despite throwing the go-ahead touchdown pass with 24 seconds left to beat UCLA on Saturday.
The defense ranks eighth nationally in scoring defense at 12 points per game. Junior defensive tackle Solomon Thomas has been named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week after returning a fumble 42 yards for a touchdown and also posted a sack against the Bruins. Stanford won 15 of its past 16 contests and matched the school record of seven consecutive Pac-12 road wins. The Cardinals recent dominance has allowed them to tie the series 41-41-4. Senior WR Francis Owusu (concussion) won’t be available for this game. He got injured against UCLA.