Stanford has been the Andre the Giant of Pac-12 Conference football, slowly, methodically slugging its way through the heart of defenses, right to the top of the Pac-12 Conference.
Whatever you want to call its brand of football — smash-mouth or old-school — Stanford has taken pride in playing a style that, well, it’s just meaner than anyone else’s in the Pac-12. As Washington defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha put it, a game against Stanford is a challenge to your manhood.
Suddenly, Stanford is more. Suddenly, Stanford can do it all on offense — smash it on the ground or spread it all around — making it, maybe, even meaner.
After claiming the Pac-12 championship last year, and winning its first Rose Bowl since 1971, the fifth-ranked Cardinal (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has unleashed sophomore quarterback Kevin Hogan, who has emerged as the top-rated passer in the conference entering Saturday’s game against the No. 15 Huskies (4-0, 1-0) at Stanford Stadium.
“This is going to be our biggest challenge yet,” UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said.
Hogan threw three touchdown passes of 33 yards or more in the Cardinal’s 55-17 rout of Washington State last Saturday. Last season, the Cardinal had a total of three touchdown passes of 30 yards or more.
“That makes them a lot more dynamic, having that balanced offense,” Kikaha said. “That’s also exciting. You get a changeup. You get to play really hard, physical ball, and then you get to rush the passer. It’s a good thing for us.”
Stanford will still pound the ball, no doubt. Hogan will do play-action passing off of that, and he’ll spread it around with three- and four-receiver sets at times, with Hogan capable of throwing it over safeties who sneak closer to the line.
That often becomes necessary against perhaps the best offensive line in the Pac-12, featuring All-American guard David Yankey.