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Tests Get Tougher for Taylor and Stanford Running Game

Stepfan Taylor shakes off a Washington defender en route to his fifth consecutive 100-yard game Saturday.
Stepfan Taylor shakes off a Washington defender en route to his fifth consecutive 100-yard game Saturday.

With his 20th and final carry in Saturday's 41-0 win at Washington, Stepfan Taylor accomplished something that no other back in the Pac-10--not even Oregon's otherworldly LaMichael James or Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers--has done this season. Taylor's seven-yard burst pushed him over 100 yards for the fifth consecutive game.

No one would argue that Taylor is anywhere near as explosive as James, who set the Oregon record for career 100-yard games (15) with his second 200-yard performance of the season against USC, but the sophomore has emerged as a model of consistency for Stanford. During his five-game streak, Taylor has totaled 108, 113, 104, 142, and 104 yards, and has averaged 5.9 yards per carry.

Last season, Toby Gerhart closed the year with a school record seven 100-yard games, including a pair of 200-yard efforts. If Taylor is to have a chance to break the record in three weeks against Cal, he'll need to crack the conference's top two running defenses in Arizona and Arizona State.

Arizona has been downright stingy against the run. Through eight games, the Wildcats have allowed four rushing touchdowns and held opponents to 2.6 yards per carry. While Arizona hasn't faced Oregon's James, the Wildcats held Rodgers and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin under 100 yards. The only player to crack the century mark against Arizona was Cal's Shane Vereen, and the Wildcats won that game 10-9.

The Wildcats' defensive line will provide the Stanford offensive line its stiffest test yet, both in terms of establishing a running game and protecting Andrew Luck. Arizona ranks fifth among FBS schools with 27 sacks, including eight by senior Ricky Elmore. Stanford has allowed three sacks all season, tied for second in the nation. Come Saturday, something's got to give.

Poll Positions: Stanford is ranked 10th and 12th in the AP and Coaches polls, respectively, while Arizona is ranked 13th in both polls. As expected, ABC picked up Saturday's game, which will begin at 5 p.m. PST.