|Stanford coach David Shaw, seen here looking satisfied and confident against USC, hopes for more reasons to smile come Thursday. (US Presswire)|
Kickoff: Thursday, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Spread: Stanford by 7
Watchability: One of the Pac-12's two best matchups this weekend, and it comes two days earlier than Oregon State at Arizona. Both teams should be rested and fresh coming off bye weeks, but the stout Stanford defense should present a challenge for a hobbled Washington offensive line.
Shining stars: Stanford: Junior defensive end Ben Gardner has become more than just another solid-but-unspectacular defensive lineman for the Cardinal. His five tackles for loss pace the team and his two sacks tie for the team lead. He could feast on the young Husky linemen. Washington: Sophomore linebacker John Timu is one of the rising defensive stars in the conference, particularly for his budding leadership skills. But the team captain is not just a spark plug with his vocal chords -- he ranks second on the team with 18 tackles, including one for loss.
Who could steal the show: Stanford: Stepfan Taylor went a bit under the radar the first two weeks, but he turned it on in a big way in a big game against USC. Now he's on a roll and the Cardinal are once again going through him. Washington: Rated the No. 2 wide receiver in the nation, Kasen Williams is definitely foremost in the hearts of Husky fans. He's off to a good start in his first year, with 15 receptions for 163 yards and two scores.
You going? Ranking the road trip: Definitely. The Thursday night, nationally televised showcase is one of the better games in the young Pac-12 schedule. Plus, Seattle is a blast for balmy night games.
Magic number for Stanford: 41.33. Stanford's defense is so good against the run, teams might start abandoning it completely. They almost already have, as the Cardinal lead the country with juts 41.33 rushing yards allowed per game.
Magic number for Washington: 2.67. Keith Price could quite literally be running for his life on Thursday. The Cardinal defense is going to be on the hunt, and Washington allows 2.67 sacks per game, 87th in the country.
This game comes down to: Stanford's ability to do what it do. The Cardinal have proven so far that they are much more than the PALPIC -- the Place Andrew Luck Played In College -- by sticking to a style that has brought them much success. If they stay committed to defense-first, run-second, play-action-third football, they'll continue to roll.
Prediction: Stanford 34, Washington 20