Pac-12 North: Stanford is turning into a juggernaut
Cal will get the national media attention this week as it heads to Salt Lake City to take on Utah in a matchup that features the Pac-12’s last two undefeated teams. However, it is the Bay Area’s other Pac-12 team that may be more deserving of notice.
Stanford took care of Arizona in Palo Alto 55-17 on Saturday and suddenly looks like a juggernaut. Not only is Stanford’s young defense getting better, but its offensive line is quickly becoming one of the best units in the nation.
Stanford’s offense, led by QB Kevin Hogan and RB Christian McCaffrey, has improved in every game. Hogan has been incredibly accurate over the past three games and is ranked eighth in passing efficiency nationally. Meanwhile, McCaffrey leads the nation in all-purpose yards and has gained more than 245 all-purpose yards in three consecutive games, all Stanford wins.
“We’ve found an identity on offense,” said Hogan. “We want to run the ball. We want to be physical. Ground-and-pound style — that opens up the passing game. The O-line played a great game, opening holes. Once we get into a rhythm on offense, we’re hard to stop.”
While Hogan and Stanford’s passing game has been strong, it will be Stanford’s running game, led by McCaffrey, which will determine how far the Cardinal can go. The team has rushed for more yards per play in each consecutive game this season, which highlights just how much the offensive line has improved.
“We knew going into the season we had the talent to do this week in and week out,” said senior tackle Kyle Murphy. “It just boils down to execution. It's finally all coming together and the backs are getting in sync.”
Stanford has a bye week this week and needs its QB to get healthy. Hogan has been playing on a bum ankle since Stanford’s win over USC on Sept. 19.
“We need this bye week,” Shaw said. “Our quarterback needs time to heal.”
Stanford plays hosts UCLA in two weeks, a game which could be a preview of the Pac-12 Championship game. If Stanford keeps playing like it has since their season-opening loss to Northwestern (which looks like a strong loss now), it could be 8-1 by the time it hosts Oregon on Nov. 14.
Goff’s Heisman moment is here
It’s never too early to produce a Heisman moment.
Cal takes its show on the road to face No. 5 Utah this week and Bears QB Jared Goff will be tasked with facing a Utes team that has proved it is one of the best in the country. FOX Sports’ Stewart Mandel has the Utes ranked No. 1, as do seven members of the AP Poll.
Goff, who is No. 5 in Bruce Feldman’s Heisman rankings, is having a phenomenal season as he’s thrown 15 touchdowns in five games in route to a spotless 5-0 record. However, he has yet to face a team as capable as Utah. Moreover, he has yet to play in an environment like Utah’s.
The Bears have question marks. Their offense is strong and their defense forces turnovers, yet they’ve been in close battles with Washington State and Texas. If the Bears want to be taken seriously nationally, they have the perfect opportunity staring them down.
If Goff can continue his strong play and find a way to lead his Bears to a victory over the Utes, he should immediately vault into the national Heisman conversation.
Who is Oregon’s QB?
Oregon played both Jeff Lockie and walk-on Taylor Alie in its 41-24 victory against Colorado on Saturday. Both Lockie and Alie struggled at times and neither looks like an appealing option going forward.
In fact, Oregon’s best QB on Saturday was wide receiver Bralon Addison, who threw a 39-yard TD pass on his only attempt of the night.
Both Lockie and Alie will likely play for the Ducks until starting QB Vernon Adams Jr. recovers from a broken right index finger that has held him out of two of the previous three games.
“We’ve got to count on a lot of these guys to play,” said offensive coordinator Scott Frost. “I was pleased, for the most part, with what the guys on the field did (at Colorado). I felt both guys did good things, and had things to improve on. So we’ll build on that.”
Quick hits: Washington takes on USC and former head coach Steve Sarkisian on Thursday night in Los Angeles… Utah and Cal will be featured on ESPN’s College Gameday … Utah is favored over Cal by 6.5 points … … Cal safety Stefan McClure was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. He is the second straight Bear to pick up that award.
Jason Gold is a writer covering the Pac-12 for FOX Sports. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.