Stanford is lucky to be 3-1. They beat Kansas State and USC pretty easily but barely snuck away with a win in Pasadena and got embarrassed by Washington. If Stanford wants to have a chance at making the playoff or the Rose Bowl, they’ll need to adjust their offense.
Stanford should start by getting Bryce Love more involved in the offense. In the open field, Love is fantastic, and he can take pressure off Christian McCaffrey. Last year, Love averaged an outstanding 7.8 ypc and also was a threat as a receiver. However this year, Love isn’t getting the touches that he deserves. McCaffrey is carrying the entire workload, and it’s too predictable. Defenses know the ball is almost always going to be in the hands of McCaffrey especially without Love in the game. With both Love and McCaffrey in the game, Stanford can use misdirection plays and both players as decoys. For example against UCLA, Stanford was struggling on offense but gained momentum when they faked to McCaffrey and countered to Love for a thirty yard gain. Stanford needs to utilize the McLovin’ backfield more often and get more creative with counters in order to be less predictable.
Secondly, David Shaw needs to give Keller Chryst a chance under center. Ryan Burns has done just fine, but he definitely hasn’t proven himself. Burns tends to hold the ball too long in the pocket, get sacked, and miss the window for open receivers. Meanwhile, Chryst seems more comfortable and more decisive in the pocket. Chryst should get the chance to take the reins and have the chance to start against Washington State on Saturday.
Lastly, Stanford does not have the physical and dominating offensive line they had last year. David Shaw needs to realize that and change his play calling style. He can’t always rely on the run and needs to shake things up. To start, Shaw should start using more play action passes to fake out defenses. It’ll allow the quarterback more time to throw the ball and corners might get caught off guard. Also, Stanford should start throwing shorter passes. Five yard passes would lead to higher completion rates and shorter conversions on third down. Changing up the passing game would lead to a more successful offense.
Stanford’s season is by no means ruined, nor over, following the Washington loss. Stanford has a tough road ahead if they want to make the playoff or Rose Bowl, but it is not an impossible journey. Stanford needs to win out and needs to start by adjusting the offense. If Stanford starts utilizing the McLovin’ backfield, gives Chryst a chance, and alters the play calling, the offense would start performing better. Last year after Northwestern, David Shaw and Stanford seemed more motivated than ever, the offense was dynamic, and the team went on a tear. Hopefully after the Washington loss, Stanford will react the same way and start dominating again.
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