Stanford has bested two solid opponents by double digits, so what can we take from these victories?
- While Ryan Burns has stepped up and looked really good in two weeks against two teams with talented defensive lines, David Shaw has done a terrific job not asking to much of his first time starting quarterback. The offense is designed to get the big play makers, Christian McCaffrey and Michael Rector, out in space and make getting them the ball easy. The rest of the offense has to make just enough plays to keep the defense honest but Shaw has let Burns rely heavily on his studs and isn't concerned about getting too creative in the name of spreading the ball around.
- The defensive front is a vicious group. Last week the Cardinal faced off against USC without star defensive lineman Harrison Phillips, but that failed to slow them down. Stanford had pressure all game long, in large part because of Solomon Thomas’ relentless attack on the offensive line. Ronald Jones had 11 runs last year of 20 or more yards, they held him to one run of more than 15 yards. While they only recorded one sack on the night the near nonexistent run game and failure to get the passing game off the ground for more than two drives is proof of the presence the big men in the trenches have.
- The secondary looked a little immature and rusty out of the gate against Kansas State but it was all systems go when USC rolled in. They did a great job of not giving up the big play to Max Browne and this explosive offense and only let up three passes of 20+ yards. Alijah Holder and Zach Hoffpauir played much better this game. They both did not give up big plays or commit penalties. Quenton Meeks has been the leader in this secondary and has looked great both in zone and press man coverage. He is the stud this unit is built around. As a whole, they did a great job tackling in the open field and played aggressive football, flying around making plays. All of the Cardinal secondary has done good job trusting their instincts and not second guessing themselves. This really keeps receivers from gaining yards after the catch and helps lead to incompletions.
This team has stayed true to what they are good at, great defense and a commitment to run the ball while still being creative and stretching the defense down the field from time to time. A well rounded offense, great coach, dependable defense and talented roster make this team a formidable opponent and a clear favorite for the PAC-12 title. This will be a top four team by the end of the year.