Washington is a 19-point underdog going into Saturday’s game against No. 10 Stanford, and if you’re looking for a good place for the Huskies to start their second major upset of the month, well, they’d better have a good start.

Share story

STANFORD, Calif. — Washington is a 19-point underdog going into Saturday’s game against No. 10 Stanford, and if you’re looking for a good place for the Huskies to start their second major upset of the month, well, they’d better have a good start.

On offense, the Huskies (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12) have struggled out of the blocks this season, outscored a combined 68-30 in the first half against their five FBS opponents. Even in their 17-12 upset of USC two weeks ago, the Huskies trailed 6-3 at halftime despite starting three drives in the Trojans’ territory.

UW coach Chris Petersen is puzzled by the repeated slow starts, particularly after “dramatically” altering their practice schedule in an attempt to address the issue.

“I don’t know. I really don’t. We look at it all the time,” Petersen said, adding: “I think some of it has to do with youth, I really do, of going out there and guys, before they get settled down and get into a groove, I think that has something to do with it.”

Stanford (5-1, 4-0) hasn’t let many teams get into a groove lately. The Cardinal jumped five spots to No. 10 in the AP poll this week after their 56-35 blowout of UCLA, and its signature physical style looks as dominant as ever.

For the fourth week in a row, the Huskies will play an offense ranked either first or second in the Pac-12 in scoring. Stanford is scoring a Pac-12-best 48.5 points in its four conference games.

Last week, the Huskies had to contend with Oregon’s hyper-speed offense. Now, they’re faced a complete change of pace coming to The Farm.

“This week is a lot more fun,” UW senior defensive lineman Taniela Tupou said. “It’s old-school football. It’s smashmouth football. It’s their O-line versus our D-line, and their running backs versus our linebackers.”

Stanford once again looks like it has the best offensive line in the Pac-12, led by Puyallup’s Joshua Garnett, who at 6 feet 5, 321 pounds is considered one of the nation’s top guards.

“It’s kind of a factory down there for those guys,” UW defensive-line coach Jeff Choate said. “It’s not like it’s anything new. It’s about the mind-set that we bring to this game and embracing that opportunity to go play. … I love the style that they play. We really respect their staff and the job that they’ve done there.”

Stanford’s offense is the best its been since Andrew Luck left after the 2011 season. Fifth-year senior Kevin Hogan leads the Pac-12 with a QB rating of 170.8, and sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey has emerged as a Heisman candidate while leading the nation with 235.0 all-purpose yards per game. He set a school record with 243 yards rushing and four touchdowns against UCLA last week.

“I think he’s one of the best pure football players I’ve seen on film in a while,” Choate said. “I’d put him on par with a Shaq Thompson in terms of his versatility and his skill set. He’s not quite as big as Shaq, but he’s a heck of a player.”

Petersen hasn’t tipped his hand this week on the status of UW freshman QB Jake Browning, who appeared to suffer a stinger in his throwing shoulder late in last week’s loss to Oregon. Stingers typically heal within a week, but the Huskies may want to be cautious with their young quarterback.

Redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels took over for the final drive against the Ducks and could be in line for his first career start against Stanford if Browning isn’t able to play.