Wednesday, November 29, 2006

BIG GAME WEEK - MEET THE 2006 STANFORD CARDINAL


QB - On the bright side, T.C. Ostrander is the best T.C. since Magnum PI. On the down side, he is the worst QB in the Pac 10. Ostrander can't be entirely blamed for the poor results, since opposing defenses needn't worry about the Cardinal run game. Still, it's fair to say that Ostrander must have the best game of his career for the Cardinal to have a shot at the upset.

OL - A bad unit - probably the worst in the Pac 10. Stanford surrenders more than four sacks per game, and the Cardinal average a truly pitiful 2.1 yards per rushing attempt. I don't know what else to say - they're simply awful. What's worse, four of the five starters are upperclassmen.

Receivers - This unit has been devastated by injury. Evan Moore was supposed to have a big year, but has instead spent time in the training room and Harris' doghouse and has only 11 catches on the season. Stanford lost two of its top 3 receivers for the season when Mark Bradford and Marcus McCutcheon went down with knee injuries. In their place, Stanford's leading receiver with 28 catches is freshman Richard Sherman, who possesses good size (6'3") and speed. Walk-on junior Kelton Lynn is a possession receiver who can find spots in the zone; freshman Austin Yancy will also see the field. Jim Dray is a serviceable sophomore tight end who is looked to as more of a primary receiver in light of Stanford's injuries.

RB - Stanford generally runs a two-back set with Anthony Kimble at tailback and Emeka Nnoli at FB. Kimble was switched by Harris from receiver to running back before the 2005 season, and he has yet to find his groove at the new position. Still, he's fairly talented and could be a much bigger threat behind a competent offensive line. Nnoli is Byron Storer without the blocking game; starter Nick Frank had to retire early in the season due to a spine injury. Freshman Toby Gerhart will rotate in at tailback and is an intriguing talent. Stanford will involve their backs in the passing game. Kimble can also throw, having completed a 57-yard touchdown against Notre Dame.

DL - Stanford runs the 3-4 for no good reason. Their nose tackle, Ekom Udofia, was highly regarded coming out of high school, and will eventually be a good performer, but he is miscast on the nose. He would be far more effective at the tackle, where he could use his quickness to greater effect. Stanford's ends are pretty average and have been unable to generate a pass rush - Chris Horn and Pannel Egboh each have 1.5 sacks, though Egboh is the better run defender.

LB - The strength of a pretty weak team; the Cardinal's best overall player is Michael Okwo, a small but very quick inside backer. He will represent a challenge for Storer and our guards in the run game. Pat Maynor, he of the recurring staph infection, starts at the other inside backer - also smallish, he's like Okwo without the athleticism. Udeme Udofia is your classic stand-up defensive end who pressures the quarterback and does little else. Clint Snyder, the other outside backer, is a good young player. Highly regarded sophomore Will Powers will also see time on Saturday.

DB - A decent unit, led by SS Brandon Harrison, who has been banged up this year but will start on Saturday. Trevor Hooper starts at free and makes lots of tackles - too many tackles. Corners are Wopamo Osaisai who possess great speed if not great cover instincts and senior Nick Sanchez, who will be assigned to Jordan/Hawkins. Harris will run lots of folks through a secondary that has allowed opposing QBs to complete 61% of their passes.

ST - Terrible on both kick and punt returns (10th and 9th in the conference, respectively), but pretty good on punt cover. Kicker Aaron Zagory is only 7-12 on the year.

Overall - Stanford is dead last in the conference in both scoring offense and scoring defense for good reason. Injuries have robbed the Cardinal of four of their top skill performers, but it's still unclear what a healthy Edwards, Frank, Bradford and McCutcheon would mean to a team that is completely overmatched in the trenches.

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