Once Pac-12 favorites, the Cardinal and Huskies are now looking for answers
The Washington Huskies (6-3, 4-2 Pac-12) began the 2018 campaign ranked in the Top 10 and were the Pac-12 Conference favorite. After a close loss to Auburn in Atlanta in its season opener, many observers felt that if Washington showed resilience and won out, a College Football Playoff berth was still be attainable.
Unfortunately for Huskies coach Chris Petersen, his squad stumbled in October with two soul-crushing losses to Oregon and California, Berkley. Now a loss against Stanford (5-3, 3-2 Pac- 12) will all but end any hopes of UW winning its second league championship since 2016.
Peterson will need for senior quarterback Jake Browning to regain his 2016 form if Washington is to make a late Pac-12 push. The 6-foot-2 senior was benched after a dismal performance against Cal, but backup Jake Haener only mirrored the ineffectiveness of Browning and the offense.
Look for Washington to lean on a defense that ranks eighth in the country in points allowed with linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven leading the way. Through eight games, the 6’0”, 221-pound senior has 122 tackles, including four consecutive games with at least 14 stops.
Stanford comes into the game reeling after a 41-38 loss to Pac-12 leader Washington State. Preseason Heisman Trophy candidate running back Bryce Love has found little breathing room against eight-man fronts and limps into the game with a bum ankle, leaving his status uncertain for Saturday. Quarterback K.J. Costello (2,165 yds/17 TDs) has quietly put up solid numbers despite a marginal Cardinal running attack. Costello’s favorite targets include receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside (10 TD receptions) and tight ends Kaden Smith and Colby Parkinson. Smith and Parkinson continue the Stanford tradition of tight end excellence, following in the footsteps of Zach Ertz, Coby Fleener and Austin Hooper.
The Stanford-Washington game dates back to 1920 with the series tied 42-42-4 after the Cardinal’s 30-22 victory in 2017. Each program has enjoyed a 10-game win streak against the other with Stanford’s run occurring from 1967-76 and Washington’s 10-year reign lasting from 1983-93 (the teams didn’t play in 1989). The Cardinal has dominated the Huskies in recent memory, winning 8 of 10 in the series and is hopeful the trend continues in Seattle Saturday night.
Although the Huskies and Cardinal rivalry may seem lukewarm to national observers, the game has featured outstanding quarterback play throughout its history. From Stanford’s John Brodie, Jim Plunkett, John Elway and Andrew Luck to Washington’s Warren Moon, Mark Brunell, Marques Tuiasosopo and Chris Chandler, the lineage of both teams under center is hard to top.
While the Cardinal has several big-bodied targets that will give Washington fits, look for Browning and company to circle the wagons and keep UW’s faint Pac-12 hopes alive with a close victory over Stanford under the lights at Husky Stadium. H&A
Kickoff for Stanford versus Washington is set for 8 p.m. CDT on Pac-12 Network.
All photos courtesy Washington Athletics
Cover photo: Washington QB Jake Browning
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