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University of Washington Huskies Football

Things to watch: No. 5 Washington hits the road to play Stanford, hoping to amend last week’s mistakes

By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

No. 5 Washington (7-0) at Stanford (2-5)

Kickoff: 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Stanford, California

TV: FS1

Latest line: Huskies by 26.5

UW key players

QB Michael Penix Jr.: 70.8% completions, 2,576 passing yards, 20 pass TDs, five INTs

WR Rome Odunze: 45 catches, 818 receiving yards, six receiving TDs, one rush TD, one return TD

LB Edefuan Ulofoshio: 45 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one INT, one pass breakup

DB Mishael Powell: 15 tackles, five PBUs, two INTs, one TFL

Stanford key players

QB Ashton Daniels: 60% completions, 1,225 pass yards, eight pass TDs, three INTs

WR Elic Ayomanor: 36 catches, 591 receiving yards, four receiving TDs

LB Gaethan Bernadel: 50 tackles, three TFLs

OLB David Bailey: 24 tackles, six TFLs, five sacks

Protecting Penix

UW’s interior offensive line continued to shuffle in last week’s narrow win over Arizona State – with redshirt freshman Parker Brailsford, sophomore Geirean Hatchett and true freshman Landen Hatchett splitting time at center and right guard. That inconsistency yielded consistent pressure up the middle, as quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was hurried 17 times (according to Pro Football Focus) and had multiple passes batted down. UW needs to more efficiently protect its quarterback and allow the Heisman Trophy contender to play (and throw) in rhythm. A confident Penix instantly improves every facet of the Husky offense.

Establishing the run

The Huskies running game appeared to make progress – with Mississippi State transfer Dillon Johnson totaling 328 rushing yards, 6.1 yards per carry and four touchdowns against Michigan State, California, Arizona and Oregon. But the Huskies ground to a halt last week, managing just 13 rushing yards and 1 yard per carry against Arizona State. As Washington’s wide-receiver depth thins due to injury, it’s more important that UW possesses a capable rushing attack. Through seven games, Stanford ranks ninth in the Pac-12 in rushing defense (150 yards allowed per game) and 11th in opponent yards per carry (4.49). Can the Huskies bounce back against a vulnerable Cardinal defense?

Winning up front

UW’s pass rush has surprisingly struggled this fall, managing just seven sacks in seven games (ranking 127th out of 133 teams nationally). Experienced edges Bralen Trice (20 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack) and Zion Tupuola-Fetui (14 tackles, three TFL, two sacks) have been all too often neutralized. Meanwhile, the run defense hasn’t been too much better, as UW sits seventh in the Pac-12 in yards allowed (136.71 per game) and opponent yards per carry (4.13). A week ago, Arizona State – one of the worst rushing offenses in the nation – produced 145 rushing yards, 4.7 yards per carry and a score inside Husky Stadium. UW’s defensive front seven must make significant strides, starting on Saturday.

Vorel’s prediction

On paper, UW is better than Stanford in almost every area. But after nearly face-planting at home against Arizona State, the fifth-ranked Huskies better take Stanford seriously. Washington has also struggled to find convincing wins in Palo Alto. Prior to the 20-13 win in 2021, the Huskies had dropped six straight on “The Farm.” On Saturday, Penix will return to form by minimizing mistakes. The Husky offense will do enough to earn a significant lead against an inferior opponent, while UW’s defense will corral a turnover or two. It’ll be closer than the experts in Las Vegas think, with the Cardinal running the ball with some success and shrinking the Huskies’ possessions. But ultimately, UW will enter a season-ending gantlet – with consecutive games against USC, Utah, Oregon State and Washington State still to come – undefeated.

Final score: Huskies 36, Cardinal 20