Last season, the Stanford Cardinal traveled to Seattle and suffered their only defeat of the year at the hands of the Washington Huskies. This year, they will be looking to avoid a repeat performance in Palo Alto as the team positions itself for a run at a repeat Pac 12 title and possible BCS National Championship berth. The biggest difference for the Cardinal from last year to this one will be the play of quarterback Kevin Hogan.
When Stanford stumbled at Washington in 2012, Hogan was still just a rarely-used, change-of-pace backup quarterback for David Shaw. In the loss to the Huskies, Hogan saw the field for the first time as he carried the ball once for five yards on a read-option keeper. The rest of the game, he watched Josh Nunes lead the offense with an 18 of 37 performance for 170 yards and an interception. Nunes was off-target all night and failed to lead the offense to a touchdown as UW finished the upset 17-13.
Not long after, Hogan took over the offense and that has made all the difference. Following the Cardinal’s blowout win over the Washington State Cougars last week, Hogan ran his record as a starter to 9-0. David Shaw recognizes that Hogan is a game-changer under center and allows the Stanford offense to much more “diverse” with his ability to make plays through the air and on the ground. His continuing development at quarterback has turned the Stanford offense into a well-oiled machine so far in 2013.
Through four games, the Cardinal are averaging over 40 points per game and Hogan has been stellar, particularly in the passing game. He’s completing 63.2 percent of his passes this season for 832 yards with 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He opened things up last week against WSU and beat the Cougars’ previously top-ranked passing defense over the top with touchdown passes of 57, 33 and 45-yards. He also remains a viable threat in the running game, ranking third on the team with 111 yards on 19 attempts this season.
Washington will have a much bigger challenge on their plate this season if they hope to win back-to-back games against the Cardinal. Hogan under center will force the Huskies to cover the entire field, accounting for a passing game that is breaking out this season and a rushing attack with countless options to carry the ball, including the quarterback.
Having Hogan under center makes the Stanford offense a dynamic force with too many weapons to effectively shut down for an entire game, and gives the Cardinal the edge as they look for revenge against the Dawgs on The Farm.
Join Kris Hughes and Tyler Brett for even more analysis of the Washington/Stanford matchup live on the Google + College Football Pregame Rant this Saturday at 10 am Pacific time live online! We’ll be picking two fans — one from each team — to tell us why their team will win and add to a lively discussion on what we see as each team’s keys to victory. Join us!