Anyone who watched No. 21 Stanford (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12) in the season opener at Northwestern may have thought the Cardinal were in for a long season with no offense to show for it. How quickly Stanford has turned things around now with two straight wins in Pac-12 play with 83 points scored. On Friday night the Cardinal put 42 on the board against Oregon State (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) to pull away from the Beavers in the Pac-12 North battle. All of a sudden Stanford once again looks like a real threat in the Pac-12, and looks equipped to take on Oregon later on this season, along with upcoming games against Arizona and UCLA.
Christian McCaffrey pounded the ball on the ground for Stanford with 206 rushing yards. Barry Sanders added 97 yards and scored two touchdowns, and quarterback Kevin Hogan was effective with his arm, completing nine of 14 pass attempts for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Friday night showed Stanford get back to the earlier roots of their rise as a program under Jim Harbaugh, with the running game setting the tone the way Toby Gerhart used to do before the Cardinal started riding high with Andrew Luck. That si the recipe for success at Stanford, especially since Hogan can tend to be a bit up and down at times. If Stanford is going to run the football as well as they did against Oregon State, then they will wear down opposing defenses and run the clock well in conference play. Stanford held the football for 34:35 in the win, and going 7-for-12 on third down conversions was a big reason why.
“We ran the ball very physically,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said after the game. “We’ve got a very physical offensive line that’s jelling together and we’ve got some dynamic runners who can make plays.”
Stanford gets their next two games at home in Palo Alto, and they will be pretty big matchups. Stanford will get what could or should be a ranked Arizona team coming in necxt week. The Wildcats are hosting UCLA tonight, so a loss could potentially drop No. 16 Arizona out of the top 25. Regardless of tonight’s result, Arizona should be a good challenge for the Cardinal. Stanford then gets 12 days to prepare for a Thursday night game at home against UCLA. UCLA enters tonight’s game at Arizona ranked ninth in the nation in the AP poll, and the Bruins face Arizona State next week.
This is a key stretch for Stanford if the Cardinal are to make a serious run in the Pac-12. All eyes may want to shift ahead to November 14 when Oregon visits Stanford, but the Cardinal have some huge opportunities to get through before that highly anticipated Pac-12 North matchup.