Stanford Cardinal at Washington Huskies, Friday Sept. 30, 9 p.m. ET
This game is crucially important for the power structure in the Pac-12. USC has been horrific. UCLA and Oregon have struggled. The winner of this Top 10 battle will be in very good position to win the Pac-12 North and will be established as the clear favorite to win the conference. Hopes weren't high for this conference heading into the season, but if a team can win here and look good doing it then the Pac-12 could be a player in the national picture. Stanford is used to these situations. For Washington this is the biggest game they have played in a very long time.
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Stanford at Washington Betting Storylines
Washington has been an offensive powerhouse so far - averaging nearly 46 points per game. You need to put a giant asterisk beside that, though, because to say their schedule has been soft would be an insult to soft schedules. They opened with Rutgers before clashing with Idaho and Portland State. The only concern with those three games would have been if they had won any by less than 30. Then they opened conference play against Arizona and their nonexistent defense. That last game was a bit of a concern all in all. They only won 35-28, and after giving up the tying touchdown with 17 seconds remaining they needed overtime to pull off the win. It was hardly the kind of effort that they will need here against a proven contender. What remains to be seen, though, is whether Chris Petersen can use the scare as a rallying point for his talented-but-very-young squad or if the challenge becomes too much for them.
To evaluate that Arizona game relies on your perspective. On one hand there was a lot not to like. Arizona QB Brandon Dawkins rushed for 176 yards and two scores, and running back J.J. Taylor added 97 yards and a score. With some guy named Christian McCaffrey coming into town, this is a massive concern. The Huskies also made it inside of Arizona's 30-yard line four different times without scoring. Now they face a much better defense, and points are going to be in short supply. On the other hand, Washington still out-rushed Arizona (never forget that while McCaffrey is the obvious star of this game, Washington has a more-than-respectable running game of their own), and the Huskies showed a lot of resilience finding a way to win a game that a lot of teams - including them last year - would have given up on.
Last year Stanford overwhelmed the Huskies, winning 31-14. It's dangerous to read too much into that game for several reasons, though. First, that game was in Palo Alto, and this one is at Washington. Huskies fans have been hungry for success, and the atmosphere will be insane for this one. The Seahawks have long shown us how impactful a Seattle crowd can be. More significantly, Washington QB Jake Browning was out for that game with a shoulder injury.
It's not like Stanford can claim to have been totally dominant and far superior this year, either. Against and underwhelming UCLA team they scored two touchdowns in the last 24 seconds of the game and still won by only nine. They looked solid but mortal. They opened with Kansas State and USC before the UCLA game - a tough test on paper that didn't turn out to be much in reality. They have been tested more than Washington but haven't resolved all concerns, either.
Stanford at Washington Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Washington favored by 3.5 points, but that has since fallen to the key number of three. Nearly 80 percent of bets have come in on the Cardinal, so it's no surprise that the line has moved as it has.
The Cardinals are 5-0 ATS in their last five games played on Friday, 4-0 ATS in their last four on the road, and 4-1 ATS in their last five against winning teams. They are a stellar 38-16-1 ATS in their last 55 conference games and 22-8 ATS in their last 30 games in September. Washington is 5-2 ATS in their last seven games overall and 15-7 ATS in their last 22 games following an ATS loss. They are, though, just 2-6 ATS in their last eight home games against teams with winning records.
Stanford at Washington Predictions and Picks
Making a pick in this game feels like more than just pickling a winner. It feels like you are taking a stance on time. Do you respect the old guard, established program? Or is it time for a new era to seize control of this conference? I've gone back and forth many times. Ultimately, though, I don't trust Stanford's offense beyond McCaffrey, and I think that the home crowd is going to have a significant impact here. Chris Petersen always had his Boise State teams ready for the biggest moments, and he knows how big this game is. When the line was at 3.5 it was a tougher call, but at three points Washington is the confident play.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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