BOULDER, Colo. – Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes may get more heat this weekend from a redshirt freshman pushing for his job than from one of the worst defenses in the nation.
Nunes will be constantly looking over his shoulder against Colorado, just to see if Kevin Hogan is trotting onto the field to take his place. Nunes has struggled at times this year in his bid to replace Andrew Luck. So much so that Cardinal coach David Shaw plans to work in Hogan under center more than he has all season.
Nothing all that drastic is in the works — not yet anyway. Shaw simply wants to send in Hogan for 12 to 20 plays to see if he can ignite the sputtering offense of No. 15 Stanford (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12).
This is as good of a time as any, especially considering that Colorado (1-7, 1-4) surrenders more than 500 yards and 46 points a game.
With big contests looming with ranked teams such as Oregon State and Oregon, Shaw hopes to get the offensive malaise straightened out, because the Cardinal's stalwart defense deserves some help.
Then again, Nunes doesn't think the offense is all that far away from finding its rhythm.
"It's just being more consistent," said Nunes, who has thrown 10 TD passes and seven interceptions this season. "We know we have all the playmakers and all the talent to put up points and put up big numbers. We just have to do that more consistently now and make the big plays more consistently."
Nunes and Hogan are vastly different types of quarterbacks, which could trip up teams. Nunes is more of a pocket passer just like Luck, the No. 1 pick of the Indianapolis Colts last spring. Living in the shadow of Luck, though, has been anything but easy for Nunes. At times this season, he's looked sloppy.
That's opened the door for Hogan, who's seen spot duty the last few weeks. Most of his action has been as a read-option or wildcat-style quarterback. But Shaw hinted that more passing situations could be on the horizon as Hogan gets more comfortable with the offense.
"He doesn't have it all down yet, so we're not going to try to give it to him just yet," Shaw said. "But for what he has been responsible for, he has done exceptionally well."
Could Hogan eventually be his starter?
"Anything is possible," Shaw said. "Anything is possible, which is always the thing when you're going to give a guy more time at any position. Yeah, that's possible."
The Buffs are certainly preparing like they'll see a steady diet of both QBs.
Ditto for Stanford.
See, Colorado has a dilemma at quarterback as well: Does the team stick with Jordan Webb or rely more on Nick Hirschman?
"I'm sure they'll both play," said coach Jon Embree, whose team has lost 10 straight against ranked teams. "I want to see them compete and things along those lines. Either way, both of the will be in there."
This has been another lackluster season for the Buffaloes. Still, a win against Stanford could be just what they need to turn around the program. That's defensive lineman Will Pericak's take on things anyway.
"We're going to beat somebody we're not supposed to," said Pericak, whose team is a 27½-point underdog against Stanford. "So why not this week?"
It won't be easy, though, even if Stanford is having a mini identity crisis at quarterback. The Cardinal still have powerful running back Stepfan Taylor, who is 96 yards away from his third straight 1,000-yard rushing season. The Buffaloes are giving up 204 yards on the ground.
But after facing the high-powered offenses of USC and Oregon in back-to-back weeks — and being outscored 120-20 — this is almost a welcome change.
"This is definitely my type of game. I love seeing a fullback in the backfield," linebacker Doug Rippy said. "They're just a physical team. That's the way they feel they can beat you, is if they out-physical you. Our whole mindset is to out-physical them."
For Stanford, it boils down to this — execution. Nunes is hoping he can get the offense back on track this weekend, even if he has to share snaps with Hogan.
"I haven't really had that much experience with it," Nunes said of splitting time. "It's just staying alert and being in-tune with what's going on on the field. When I have the opportunity to go in there and make plays, just go in there and do it."
NOTES: The Cardinal are making their first visit to Folsom Field since 1990, when Eric Bieniemy, who's now CU's offensive coordinator, scored on fourth-and-goal with 12 seconds left in a 21-17 win. Shaw dressed for Stanford in that game, but didn't play. His most vivid memory? Easy — Ralphie, CU's mascot. "I was the first guy out of the locker room and the first thing I saw was Ralphie coming full speed with those people barely hanging on," Shaw said. "The rest of the team is trying to come out, and I'm trying to go back in." ... The Buffs are 61-31-5 in homecoming games.
AP Sports Writer Antonio Gonzalez in Stanford, Calif., contributed.
Pat Graham can be reached at: www.twitter.com/pgraham34