Stanford Football: 5 Keys to the Game vs. Colorado
Stanford is currently ranked 14th in the BCS standings with a 6-2 record this season. The Cardinal's only losses came against Pac-12 rival Washington and an undefeated Notre Dame team in overtime.
With two higher-ranked conference opponents to play before the season's through, the Cardinal could make a serious push at a BCS Bowl game.
That's only possible if they don't make the same mistake I'm making now. The game they have to worry about right now is at Colorado this Saturday.
The battle in Boulder has all the makings to be a trap game, and if the Cardinal don't have their heads right, they could slip up before they even get a shot at Oregon and Oregon State the following weeks.
Let's take a look at some of the keys to the game for Stanford.
Stepfan Taylor will be running hungry against the Buffaloes. Unfortunately for them, he's got extra motivation as he's only 96 yards from being the second 1000-yard rusher in Cardinal history.
After suffering back-to-back concussions in consecutive weeks, Colorado's junior safety Patrick Orms will likely be out for the game. Orms is a physical specimen and leaves his mark after every tackle.
If Taylor is able to break into the secondary, the potential for some long-gainers is high. Stanford's ability to lean on its run game will have a lot to say about the score by the end of the game.
The Cardinal set a school record last week against Washington State with 10 sacks. They're averaging more than nine tackles-for-loss per game and regularly make the offensive backfield their home away from home.
If the defensive line can produce in back-to-back weeks, that alone could be enough to hold a struggling Colorado team at bay.
Barring a wild game against Arizona, Stanford's defense has been pretty stout, allowing no more than 17 points to the opposition.
With safety Parker Orms out, Stanford's tight ends should have a field day going across the middle and on seam routes.
Tight end Zach Ertz is leading the team in receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns.
The next leading receiver on the team is also a tight end, Levine Toilolo. He's got half the receptions Zach Ertz does, but he is matching his production with similar yards-per-catch and he has scored three touchdowns so far.
There's no denying that Stanford is "Tight End U" right now, and the defensive deficiencies of Colorado provide a mouth-watering matchup for them.
Junior Josh Nunes should be looking at the middle of the field early and often for his tight ends. A few high percentage passes will get his confidence up early on.
Nunes has struggled to remain consistent this season, and redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan is waiting in the wings for his opportunity.
Head coach David Shaw said that he plans to play Hogan more often, according to Yahoo Sports. It's a common ploy by coaches at every level to try and push their starters to play harder.
''He's [Hogan] not ready to take it all right now,'' Shaw said, ''and I'm not ready to take it all away from Josh.''
At 6-2, the Cardinal can ill-afford another slip-up if they want this season to count for anything. Colorado, at 1-7, shouldn't provide too much trouble in theory.
Football is played on grass and not on paper, and this late in the season, the any-given adage especially holds true.
They'll be on the road against a team that has a lot to prove and is playing for pride at this point. Pride is a dangerous motivator, and Stanford would be wise not to take anything for granted this weekend.