Stanford has a very good football team. Outside of the SEC, there are very few comparable offensive lines and the Cardinal defensive front seven is the best in the country regardless of conference. It's just that Washington is very good too and in many ways more explosive. In fact, based on what we have seen to-date this season, it's not difficult to make the case that Washington has been the better team in this matchup.
Though junior quarterback Kevin Hogan has certainly given Stanford's offense an additional level of excitement since taking over as the starter in November of last season, the Cardinal is still not built to win in shootouts or blowouts against decent competition (that was even true when Andrew Luck was the quarterback at Stanford). Last year, Stanford only won four of its 12 game in convincing fashion. Otherwise, it won games by three (vs. San Jose State), seven (vs. USC), six (in OT vs. Arizona), seven (vs. Washington State), four (vs. Oregon State), three (at Oregon), three (vs. UCLA) and six (vs. Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl). And Stanford also lost games by three (at Washington) and seven (at Notre Dame). That's ten games decided within a touchdown and six home wins by seven points or fewer. This year has been a little different as Stanford has won each of its games by 14 or more points, but that is certainly buoyed by playing just the 60th ranked schedule in the country thus far.
The Cardinal enter this game ranked tenth overall in our College Football Power Rankings. The team is in the top 15 in each of our strength-of-schedule adjusted efficiency metrics including passing efficiency (#9), rushing efficiency (#14), pass defense (#6) and rush defense (#8). However, Stanford ranks just 25th in offense. Since we rank offense and defense by projected points scored or allowed against an average FBS team, it is clear that, though efficient, Stanford is not as explosive or high scoring offensively as most elite teams.
Washington, which is 4-0 (like Stanford) after wins over Boise State, Illinois, Idaho State and Arizona, ranks 12th overall in our Power Rankings. The Huskies have played our 56th ranked schedule. From an efficiency standpoint, Washington looks strong and balanced as well. Offensively, the Huskies rank tenth overall and are 16th in passing efficiency and 15th in rushing efficiency. Senior quarterback Keith Price has rebounded from an average 2012 season battling with nagging injuries and inconsistent play to look more like his 2011 season (if not better) when Price threw for 3,063 yards, 33 TDs and 11 INTs. He is joined in the backfield by junior running back Bishop Sankey, who is the most dynamic skill position player in this game. Sankey almost single-handedly defeated Arizona last week with 40 carries for 161 yards. Defensively, where this team has improved the most over the Steve Sarkisian era, the team is eighth against the pass and 23rd against the run.
These are two very good, balanced, complete college football teams. Look for a lower scoring (by Pac-12 standards), close game where a key play call or turnover decides the victor late, yet the game stays within a touchdown either way for most of the contest.
According to 50,000 games played by the Predictalator, Stanford wins at home over Washington just 52.8 percent of the time and by an average score of 26.3-24.5. As more than one touchdown underdogs who lose by about two points on average, Washington covers the spread 56.3 percent of the time. This is just shy of qualifying as a "normal" pick, yet a normal $50 player can still feel confident enough about this play to wager $41 on Washington +7.5. Though low scoring relative to the conference in our projections, the simulation is in line with the total (52.5) and the Over/Under is not playable.
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