Stanford-Washington Preview

The Associated Press

The Stanford Cardinal could probably come up with an endless list of good things about their upset win over the nation's No. 2 team.

Perhaps the only downside was that they had nearly two weeks to think about it.

Eighth-ranked Stanford finally returns to the field Thursday night, facing a whole new set of expectations as it begins its road schedule by visiting Washington.

Soon after the Cardinal (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) beat Southern California 21-14 on Sept. 15, coach David Shaw tried to downplay the victory.

That was a difficult task considering Stanford, which began the season ranked 21st, proved it's still a major force despite losing No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck and several other NFL-caliber players.

"I don't want to treat it like a national holiday," Shaw said last week. "We won a football game. Great. We have another one (Thursday).

"We have talked about not being a flash in the pan," the coach said. "We don't want to be that team known for one victory. We want to be known for victory after victory. We want to be consistent, stacking wins on top of wins."

Stanford has piled up eight consecutive road victories dating to 2010 and three straight wins in Seattle, including a 41-0 blowout in its last trip there two years ago.

Stepfan Taylor ran for 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns in that game and added 138 yards on just 10 carries in a 65-21 home win over the Huskies last season.

"You never want to get embarrassed like that," Washington wide receiver Kasen Williams said. "You still have that bad taste in your mouth from years past. You want to get back at them someway, somehow and we've had to wait a full year to do it."

They'll still have to deal with Taylor, who launched himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation earlier this month. He carried 27 times for 153 yards and a touchdown against the Trojans, also catching five passes for 60 yards and another score.

Although quarterback Josh Nunes has stepped in admirably for Luck, Stanford's defense was even more impressive in shutting down one of the nation's top passers. The Cardinal held USC's vaunted offense to 280 yards, picking off Matt Barkley twice and sacking him four times without allowing a TD pass.

USC scored twice on the ground but totaled 26 rushing yards on 28 attempts against a Stanford run defense that leads the nation in allowing 41.7 yards per game.

"We've got a talented bunch," linebacker Shayne Skov said. "When we play together like that, it's so special."

Washington (2-1) didn't perform so well in its first test against an elite defense. The Huskies totaled 183 yards - 26 on the ground - in a 41-3 loss at No. 3 LSU on Sept. 8.

They had last weekend off after rebounding with a 52-13 win over Portland State on Sept. 15, but coach Steve Sarkisian is well aware of the challenge that awaits his team in its Pac-12 opener.

"Stanford has a unique style of football in their big personnel groupings with multiple tight ends and extra offensive linemen, and then their ability to play stout up front on the defensive side of the ball to keep the game close," Sarkisian said. "The moment you break down, they seem to take advantage of it."

Washington has lost four straight overall to Stanford as it prepares for a brutal first three weeks of conference play. After facing the Cardinal, the Huskies visit No. 2 Oregon, then host the 13th-ranked Trojans.

Stanford, Oregon and USC all beat Washington last year by a combined 139-55.

Keith Price figures to play a major role in determining whether the Huskies can do better in 2012. Only three of the quarterback's 33 touchdown passes in 2011 came against the three Pac-12 powers, with three of his 11 interceptions also coming in those games.

Price was 14 of 19 for 181 yards and three touchdowns against Portland State, but he couldn't get the offense going versus LSU the previous week, getting sacked four times and throwing an interception while completing 17 of 36 passes (47.2 percent).

The Tigers had little trouble running the ball on Washington, rolling up 242 yards and four TDs on 52 carries, and the Huskies are also trying to shore up a banged-up offensive line that has already allowed eight sacks.

"We've seen definite improvement there. But again, time will tell and we will find out Thursday," Sarkisian said. "They've got a great task ahead of them. Stanford's front is tremendous."

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