Tucson, AZ – The Pac-12 Conference is loaded with outstanding ranked Stanford Cardinal may be the best of the bunch. This weekend, they travel to Tucson to do battle with the dangerous Arizona Wildcats.
It is hard to imagine Stanford being any more dominant than it has through the first two weeks of this new season, as the club has outscored its two opponents by a combined margin of 101-17. The most recent triumph came over Duke on the road last weekend by a 44-14 final. Stanford alum David Shaw is in his first season as head coach of the Cardinal, as he filled the void created when Jim Harbaugh made the jump to the NFL's San Francisco 49ers. Shaw has a deep roster and used many subs last week.
"That was the plan," said the coach. "We did the same thing last week against San Jose State. We were trying to prepare ourselves for two hot-weather games in climates that we are not used to by playing a lot of guys early. We're deep enough so that we can rotate guys with some experience and athletic ability."
As for Arizona, it opened the season with a 41-10 romp over Northern Arizona before hitting the road to battle a stellar Oklahoma State team of the Big 12 Conference. Unfortunately for the 'Cats, they were simply no match for the Cowboys who rolled to a 37-14 win. That game took place last Thursday, so Mike Stoops' Arizona squad has had a couple of extra days to prepare for this weekend's clash.
"I don't know if there are any consolation prizes, but definitely playing good competition, you know what to expect and how to prepare and how to execute," said Wildcats' linebacker Paul Vassallo when asked if the Oklahoma State game can prove to be beneficial moving forward.
Arizona holds a 14-12 series edge over Stanford, but the Cardinal has won three of the last four meetings. Last season, Stanford crushed the Wildcats by a 42-17 final.
It is no secret that any conversation regarding Stanford begins with quarterback Andrew Luck, who may very well have been the top pick of the 2011 NFL Draft had he decided to leave school early. Luck has guided the Cardinal to 50.5 ppg and 438.5 total ypg thus far, having completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 461 yards and six touchdowns with one interception. Chris Owusu is Luck's top target, and he leads the team with 14 grabs for 182 yards. As for Coby Fleener, three of his five catches have resulted in touchdowns.
Opponents are only managing 8.5 ppg and 286.0 total ypg against Stanford, which is a tremendous defensive football team. The Cardinal have been stellar against the run, permitting a mere 28.5 ypg at a clip of less than one yard per attempt. The pass defense hasn't been nearly as impressive, but it is important to keep in mind that the two opponents to date have been forced to abandon the run early in an attempt to play catch-up.
In the romp over Duke, the defense was dominant. As for the offense, Luck connected on 20-of-28 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Owusu made seven catches for 106 yards and a score.
"I've only been around a couple of quarterbacks that see everything," said Shaw when asked about Luck's play. "I thought he managed the game very well. Early on we had a couple of protection issues where he had to slide and throw a few off his back foot. He's resilient. He never backs down."
Like Luck, Arizona quarterback Nick Foles put up big numbers last week, but his club fell well short in the matchup with Oklahoma State. Foles completed 37-of-51 passes for 398 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, and Dan Buckner finished with 10 receptions for 142 yards and one score. Unfortunately, the 'Cats ran for just 41 yards on 21 rushing attempts.
"Our inability to run the football, offensively, just leads to kind of a seven-on-seven game, and until we move the ball more effectively, we can't be a complete football team," said Stoops.
Foles will play this weekend despite a minor knee injury, but star wideout Juron Criner is expected to miss the contest after having his appendix removed.
Oklahoma State may very well be the best offensive team in the nation, but the Wildcats certainly didn't expect to yield 594 total yards last week. That was indeed the case, however, as Arizona was victimized for 397 yards through the air and five total touchdowns.
Overall this season, Arizona is generating 27.5 ppg and 463.0 total ypg while surrendering 23.5 ppg and 426.5 total ypg. Foles has been tremendous, completing 76.3 percent of his passes for 810 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions.