GAME NOTES: Powerhouse Pac-10 Conference teams will collide in Stanford this weekend as the hometown Cardinal, ranked 10th nationally, will host the 13th- ranked Arizona Wildcats.
Arizona has flown under the radar this season, which is certainly surprising considering the team's 7-1 overall record and 4-1 mark in league action. The only loss came at home to Oregon State on October 9th. The Wildcats have won their last three outings, including a 29-21 triumph over UCLA last weekend on the road.
"Going on the road and winning is a great compliment to our players and our coaches," said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops after the UCLA. "I thought we played relatively well if you take out a couple of plays defensively. Besides that, we had pretty good control of the game."
Just like Arizona, Stanford is 7-1 after winning each of its last three games. The only loss for the Cardinal to date came against Oregon, which is still unbeaten and ranked first nationally. Last weekend, the Cardinal were completely dominant on both sides of the ball in a 41-0 romp over Washington.
Arizona owns a 14-11 series advantage over Stanford, which includes a 43-38 victory over the Cardinal last season.
Wildcats' quarterback Nick Foles sprained his knee two weeks ago and was held out of action against UCLA last weekend. Matt Scott, a junior, took the snaps against the Bruins and completed 24-of-36 passes for 319 yards and one touchdown with one interception. He also posted 71 rushing yards in the tilt.
"I thought he was really good," said coach Stoops of Scott. "He made tons of plays throughout the course of the game. He continues to improve and we knew that we could win with Matt."
Juron Criner hauled in eight balls for 127 yards and a touchdown, proving once again to be one of the top wideouts in the nation. As for tailback Keola Antolin, he carried 23 times for 111 yards and a touchdown.
While the Arizona offense rolled up 583 total yards against UCLA, the Wildcats played tremendous defense as well, limiting the Bruins to 299 total yards. The run defense was superb, permitting a mere 71 yards on 28 attempts. Although there were a few long pass plays allowed and two passing touchdowns, Arizona can take pride in the fact that just 13-of-27 attempts by UCLA resulted in completions.
Through eight games, Arizona is racking up 32.6 ppg and 453.4 total ypg. Foles, who is expected back this weekend, has completed a stellar 75.3 percent of his passes for 1,600 yards and nine touchdowns with five interceptions. Criner has 49 catches for 786 yards and five touchdowns, while Antolin has rushed for 443 yards and six scores. As for Nic Grigsby, the other half of the team's outstanding tailback duo, he has posted 421 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
Foes are scoring only 14.4 ppg against the stingy Wildcats, who are yielding a lowly 286.9 total ypg. That fact that only 88.4 rushing ypg are being permitted at an average of 2.6 yards per carry has been key to the team's success. With 27 sacks and 15 takeaways, Arizona has made its fair share of big plays. Keep an eye on Ricky Elmore, as he has posted eight of the team's sacks.
Stanford figures to challenge that tremendous Arizona defense, as the Cardinal are posting 42.4 ppg and 466.9 total ypg. Andrew Luck is at the helm of the offense, and he has connected on 67.3 percent of his passes for 1,920 yards and 20 touchdowns against six interceptions. The star quarterback's favorite target is Doug Baldwin, who has made 33 catches for 458 yards and six scores. As for the ground attack, Stepfan Taylor has run for 728 yards and seven touchdowns.
While Stanford defense hasn't been quite as good as Arizona's unit, the club has been able to limit opponents to 21.2 ppg and 330.4 total ypg. The Cardinal have surrendered 21 touchdowns to opposing offenses, 11 of which have come through the air. Fortunately, they have tallied 18 takeaways, including 10 interceptions, to go along with 20 sacks. Shayne Skov leads Stanford with 46 total tackles, including three sacks.
The Cardinal rolled up 470 total yards against Washington last week and scored five offensive touchdowns, four of which were of the rushing variety. Taylor reached the end zone twice and tallied 104 rushing yards on 20 carries. As for Luck, he connected on 19-of-26 passes for 192 yards and a score.
"Let's open up the Heisman discussion a little bit," said Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh. "This Andrew Luck is a great, great football player."
The Cardinal limited the Huskies to seven first downs and 107 total yards, causing the coach of Washington, Steve Sarkisian, to call the offensive effort the worst he has ever been associated with. Stanford permitted only 19 rushing yards on 25 carries, a remarkable statistic, and two interceptions helped preserve the shutout as well.
Simply put, Stanford and Arizona are evenly matched. Give a narrow edge to the Cardinal this weekend based solely on the homefield advantage.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Stanford 28, Arizona 24