This is going to be a very long game for Stanford. Against Max Browne and Josh Rosen the Cardinal had the advantage of having a phenomenal front seven that could bring pressure for 60 minutes against pressure sensitive quarterbacks. They could impact the game immensely by simply forcing the pocket to collapse and getting the quarterback out of his comfort zone. But it will not be that easy when facing Jake Browning, who has the ability to hang in a messy pocket and deliver strikes. Jake Browning has been compared to guys like Russell Wilson but the better comparison is Aaron Rogers.
He is going to use his feet to move in the pocket or escape to keep the play extended longer than the coverage can hold on. He is not going to be flustered by pressure or having to move out of the pocket. When he has a defense on their heels it opens up the run in a big way.
The best way defensively for Stanford to approach this game is play a deep zone defense to keep everything in front of them. If they do that it will simplify the reads for the new corners and make it easier for the veteran safeties to come down and make plays as well. If they focus on letting up the short game they won't get burned deep and let the offense really start clicking. This will also mean they will need guys on the defensive line to win their match ups, since linebackers will be in coverage. This is where Harrison Phillips and Solomon Thomas can really excel and make an impact.
On the offensive side they know what Washington is going to do, they will stack the box and force Stanford to beat them with the arm of Ryan Burns. Look for Stanford to get creative, like the end around to get Rector the ball in space against USC. But they will need more than cunning play calling, they need to have faith in his ability to make the hard throws and he needs to play lights out.
Two big things they can do in the passing attack: First is have McCaffrey line up in man over splits, that’s when one receiver lines up behind the other, which often leads to a man lost in coverage, especially against college corners. Getting McCaffrey or Rector open in space like that would be lethal. The second factor will be the tight ends. Stanford has solid pass catching tight ends in Dalton Shultz and Greg Taboada, they need to get them involved as a linebacker or safety covering those guys is an automatic advantage for Stanford. If they can have a big role it will really help out Burns.
The best card that Stanford can play is obvious, but needs to be stated, Christian McCaffrey is a beast and will make something happen. He has the Adrian Peterson like ability to out of nowhere but out a 40 yard touchdown. The explosion and toughness he has every time he touches the ball means he has big play potential every play. He is also attacking in so many ways, form the back field, the slot, out wide, returning. It is literally impossible to shut him down for a game because he always is touching the football. He is always a factor in Stanford’s favor. Advantage Cardinal.
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