Stanford won't overlook 1-7 Colorado

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


Stanford's game at Colorado should provide the Cardinal with a routine win before it tackles its final three difficult games in its bid for a Pac-12 championship.
After all, the Buffaloes (1-7) are last in the conference in scoring offense, scoring defense and total defense, and they have lost four in a row, all by at least 28 points. Plus, they are coming off a confidence-draining 70-14 loss to Oregon, which led 56-0 at halftime.
It would seem the Cardinal should cure its offensive woes against a Colorado team that is winless at home this season.
Indeed, the Cardinal (6-2) should win the game convincingly, but two things are cause for pause before the Cardinal turns its attention to the games against Oregon State, Oregon and UCLA.
For one thing, the Cardinal's offensive performance in the Oct. 27 game against Washington State should prevent anyone from believing Stanford can overwhelm any opponent with offensive firepower.
Against a Cougars defense that was ranked 10th in the Pac-12, Stanford could do little offensively. The Cardinal won the game 24-17, but one of the Cardinal touchdowns was scored by its defense, and the Cardinal running game was noticeably deficient.
And that game was at Stanford, where the Cardinal offense has been considerably better than it has been on the road. Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes has struggled on the road, so questions remain as to whether the Cardinal can beat up on anyone, especially away from Stanford Stadium.
That represents the second issue of concern for Stanford, since the Nov. 3 game will be played on the road, at high altitude.
Stanford can count on its defense to keep Colorado's offense in check, but the Cardinal's habit of playing low-scoring games, especially on the road, leaves little room for error. Stanford has not scored more than 21 points in any road game, although none of those opponents were as porous defensively as Colorado.
Colorado's chief defensive weakness has been its propensity to give up the big play, but the Cardinal offense is not built to produce game-changing plays and has seldom come up with them.
Certainly, the Cardinal should beat Colorado in a blowout, but there are reasons to believe it might be closer than expected.

NOTES
Despite its poor showing against Washington State, Stanford rose three spots to No. 14 in this week's BCS standings. The Cardinal is No. 15 in both the Associated Press and USA Today polls. The Cardinal is in the AP top 25 for the 41sth straight week. The streak is tied for the fifth longest in the nation, dating back to Sept. 5, 2010.
--Stanford conceivably could get to the Rose Bowl without winning the Pac-12 conference title, but it's unlikely. That scenario would require the conference champion -- namely Oregon -- to play in the national championship game, while Stanford finishes in the top 14 of the BCS standings. But to maintain that ranking, the Cardinal probably would have to beat Oregon, which would knock the Ducks out of the national title picture. So, to get to the Rose Bowl, Stanford likely needs to win the rest of its games.
--Stanford has intercepted 10 passes this season. It had seven interceptions all of last season.
--Stanford has averaged 33.8 points in its five home games and 15.7 points in its three road games. It has scored three offensive touchdowns in its three road games combined, all against Cal.
--QB Kevin Hogan continues to get increased playing time. The 6-4, 224-pound Hogan has been used in something similar to a wildcat formation, although Stanford uses the wildcat term only when a tailback gets a direct snap. Hogan is used primarily as a runner on goal-line situations, but he threw a touchdown pass against Cal. He is a Tim Tebow type, and is basically a change-of-pace quarterback with his own package of plays. He is not a threat to Josh Nunes as the starting quarterback at the moment.
SERIES HISTORY: Stanford leads 4-3 (last meeting, 2011, 48-7 Stanford).