WASHINGTON HUSKIES (8-1)
at STANFORD CARDINAL (6-3)
Stanford Stadium – Stanford, CA
Kickoff: Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET
Line: Washington -6.5, Total: NA
#9 Washington looks for a Friday night win at Stanford to stay in CFP contention.
The Washington Huskies aren't getting a lot of respect. In the AP Top 25 Poll released on Sunday, Washington was ranked ninth, making it the lowest-ranked one-loss Power 5 team. However, it is frankly difficult to argue that they deserve to be ranked higher. They were No. 5 in the country until October 15th, when they malfunctioned on offense in a 13-7 loss at Arizona State. Aside from that slip-up, the Huskies have been dominant against Pac-12 competition, beating Colorado, Oregon State, Cal, UCLA and Oregon by an average margin of victory of 29.8 points. They also have the benefit (from a playoff selection standpoint) of having their biggest games ahead of them on a remaining slate that includes Utah, Washington State and, possibly, a conference championship game against USC. Also on the docket is Stanford, which the Huskies will visit this Friday night. If it had taken place a week earlier, the Cardinal would've been Washington's first ranked opponent of the year. But unfortunately for UW, Stanford lost 24-21 at Washington State this past weekend to drop from No. 18 to out of the AP Poll. Stanford is still a dangerous team that could give Washington troubles. Since 1992, road favorites allowing 2.75 or less yards per carry on the season are 13-37 ATS after gaining 5.5 yards per carry in two straight games (UW). But over the last five seasons, home underdogs of 3.5 to 10 points are 12-32 ATS after going under the total by 42 or more total points in their last five games (STAN).
Despite leading his team to a surprising Playoff appearance as a sophomore, Washington QB Jake Browning entered the season with considerably less hype than other Pac-12 signal-callers like Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and even Luke Falk. And while he's thrown at least 100 fewer passers than all three, resulting in lower yardage and touchdown totals, he leads the conference in passer rating (154.9) and yards per attempt (8.2). Considering how big of a name he was in the college football world last year, though, it is surprising how much of a backseat he has taken at times in this offense. In the three-touchdown win against UCLA two weeks ago, for example, he completed 8 of 11 passes for 98 yards and an interception; the running backs did most of the work. He is yet to throw for 300 yards in a game this season. Instead, the offense has centered around RB Myles Gaskin, who has returned to 2016 form after getting quite a bit of rest in the Huskies' early-season games against weaker foes. He has 292 rushing yards in the two games since Washington's defeat at Arizona State. The backfield is deep in Seattle, as RBs Lavon Coleman and Salvon Ahmed are both first-rate second options. After playing second fiddle to John Ross last year, WR Dante Pettis is easily the main option at receiver. He has seven touchdown receptions, with no one else on the team having more than two. A punt return touchdown against Oregon made Pettis the all-time leader in that category, and he also had a 47-yard touchdown catch.
This paragraph could be entirely about RB Bryce Love, as the Stanford offense relies upon him completely to succeed. Through seven games this season, he had easily the most impressive resume in all of college football. He had at least 147 rushing yards in each of those games, and 11 total touchdowns. In a remarkable two-week stretch in wins over UCLA and Arizona State, he rushed for a combined 564 yards. And while he rushed for 147 against Oregon the next week, he sustained an injury that kept him out against Oregon State 12 days later. His absence was felt—strongly: Stanford managed only 222 yards of total offense and needed a late touchdown to pull off a comeback win at Oregon State, a team that is now 1-7. No other team has scored less than 32 points against the Beavers this season. Love was back against Washington State last week, but he didn't fully look like himself, running for 69 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. The Cardinal almost beat a good Wazzu team nonetheless, but they'll need a better Love to take down the Huskies. They can't really rely on QB Keller Chryst, who, despite his experience, has ceded some time to backup K.J. Costello at points this year. Costello got the start against Washington State and was pretty dismal, completing 9 of 20 passes for 105 yards and an interception. WRs JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Trenton Irwin each have over 300 yards receiving, and Arcega-Whiteside has five receiving TDs.