Stanford had the privilege of seeing some of its best football the last couple of years in large part to quarterback Andrew Luck slinging the football. The Cardinal finished the last two seasons with a combined 23-3 record and reached two consecutive BCS bowl games.
Now with Luck no longer on the roster, running back Stepfan Taylor has quickly become the man that is leading this offense. After two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Taylor is not only the go-to guy to put points on the board, he is also quickly building a case for the Heisman Trophy.
Thursday night's matchup against Washington at 9 p.m ET on ESPN will determine just how serious of a candidate he is.
Taylor is averaging five yards a carry, has scored four total touchdowns and has broken off two runs of over 20 yards in the first three games. With the lack of a passing game, Taylor is the Stanford offense and will continue to be the workhorse for producing points.
While Stanford has already pulled off a major upset over a highly ranked USC team, this week’s game may determine whether he really has a shot at the award. Washington is a club that was considered one of the surprise teams in the Pac-12, and the Huskies also have a dark horse Heisman candidate in quarterback Keith Price.
But this game is not about the Huskies, it is about Taylor and his chances to become just the second Stanford Heisman winner.
Washington is a defense that is allowing 174 rushing yards on the ground, which is good for 11th in the Pac-12. They have allowed six rushing touchdowns in the first three games, a 4.5 run per carry average and over 200 yards to LSU alone. What makes things even better for Taylor is that in the last two games against the Huskies, he has racked up 242 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Does Taylor have a legitimate shot at the Heisman?
There is no question that the cards are lined up for Taylor to have a breakout game this week, as he has done for most of his career. But the main difference between this year and the years past is that there is no longer anybody standing in the running back's way.
Sure, Washington has lost the last four meetings against the Cardinal, but those games were always about somebody else.
Luck received all of the attention the last couple of years, even though Taylor cracked the 1,000-yard mark both seasons. Stanford had a nationally televised game earlier this year against USC, but everybody was drooling over Matt Barkley and how great the Trojans were going to be.
This is a big game where finally the attention will be focused mainly on the senior running back. It is one of the few times Stanford will get the college football audience all to themselves. This is a chance for Taylor to make a statement, because the rest of his team already has.