Stanford Game Preview: An Uphill Hike Through Wake Forest
With the anticipation of week one finally behind them, the Stanford Cardinal are looking to keep the road ball rolling this Saturday in Winston-Salem.
It has been five years since Stanford started off the season 2-0, but you have to go back much further for a time when the Cardinal opened up the season with two wins away from the Farm.
In 1995, Stanford took road victories in San Jose (not much of a road trip) and in Utah to begin their campaign. This season, an always-concerning early game on the East Coast should provide a much tougher predicament.
While Stanford seeks to build off a promising opening game, Wake Forest will be hoping to forget their first outing and rebound against the traveling Cardinal.
The Demon Deacons struggled mightily against the Baylor Bears last week, falling behind early and never really having a chance to get back into the game.
Senior quarterback Riley Skinner posted his worst opening day QB rating, throwing three interceptions and passing for only 143 yards. Improvement by Skinner is extremely necessary if Wake Forest expects to make any type of noise this weekend and in the ACC this season.
Skinner will look to take advantage of a Stanford secondary that was batted around last week by a couple of inexperienced quarterbacks.
A balanced Washington State offense kept the Cardinal cornerbacks on their toes for most of the game, exploiting them for 247 passing yards and one touchdown. Seven different Cougars caught passes giving the entire Cardinal secondary fits.
Skinner is capable of doing more of the same this weekend, as he was able to find nine different Deacons for receptions in their week one loss.
Wake Forest will also look to set the tone with a balanced offensive attack. Since moving from the spread to a more pro-set type offense, the running backs are playing a bigger part in every game.
Last week the Deacons ran the ball 34 times but were only able to amass 126 rushing yards. Devon Brown led all running backs, carrying the ball eight times for 46 yards. He also caught three passes for 32 yards and a touchdown.
Stanford’s defensive line could have another big day in the trenches if they can shake off the morning cobwebs. In last week’s opening drive, the Cougars gained 75 yards on 19 plays creating a little bit of concern on how this front four can come out of the gate.
Starting off strong and containing any early flurries will be essential.
While the Deacons returned all five of their offensive line starters from last year, Baylor did a number on them, racking up five tackles for loss (TFL) and three sacks.
The Demon Deacon defense is the biggest question mark entering this game. They did little to add confidence amongst their fan base by allowing 124 yards on 24 plays and 10 points in their first two series.
A defensive line that produced three sacks and a secondary that allowed 143 passing yards should still be able to test Andrew Luck‘s consistency in his second start. Luck was impressive in his first appearance, throwing for 193 yards and a touchdown and also gaining over 50 yards through the ground.
While the ability to sustain a steady passing game will be key, the Cardinal success rests on Toby Gerhart and his overpowering running style. Gerhart mowed down tacklers in Pullman, surpassing the 100-yard mark and punching the ball in for two touchdowns.
An unstable Wake Forest rushing defense allowed Baylor stalwart Jay Finley to gain 91 yards and the entire Bears offense to rush for over 200 yards. Gerhart and the Cardinal should attack this same area early and often in order to spell week two success.
Prediction: Stanford 17, Wake Forest (-2.5) 16
Game of the Week
Notre Dame (-3) 28, Michigan 17
While it’s hard to go against one of my favorite teams, Michigan should be slightly overpowered by a Notre Dame offense that was exceptionally impressive against Nevada.
Michigan did look strong against Western Michigan but Notre Dame isn’t exactly a MAC team. The Irish should completely control this game and have no problem covering the three-point spread.
Jason’s 2009 College Football Prediction Record: 1-1
(#) = Line at Caesar’s Hotel & Casino
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