college football picks Wake Forest at Stanford 9-18-10

September 18, 2010

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In search of their first 3-0 start since 2001, the 19th-ranked Stanford Cardinal play host to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons this weekend at Stanford Stadium.

The Cardinal hit the road for the first time last weekend and came away with an impressive 35-0 blanking of UCLA in its Pac-10 opener. The victory ended a six-game losing streak to UCLA at the Rose Bowl, as Stanford posted its first shutout over UCLA since 1941.

“This win means a lot,” stated head coach Jim Harbaugh. “We were exorcising our demons. This was the first time we’ve won here in 14 years. I’m very proud of our team’s performance.”

Stanford, which opened the season with a 52-17 rout of Sacramento State, is now hoping for its first 3-0 start in nine years. Dating back to 1972, the Cardinal has won its first three games on just four occasions, so this is a big deal for the program.

Standing in the way is a Wake Forest club that is also undefeated while topping the 50-point barrier in consecutive games for the first time in school history. Last weekend, the Deacons were involved in wild shootout, as they came away with a 54-48 win over Duke in their ACC opener.

“As a coach, your worst nightmare is when you get in one of those shootouts,” Deacons coach Jim Grobe said. “It was a great TV game.”

Wake Forest was equally as impressive in a 53-13 season opening win, although that came against an inferior opponent in Presbyterian.

The Deacons and Cardinal met for the first-ever time on the gridiron last season and Wake Forest earned a 24-17 victory in that clash which took place in Winston-Salem.

Wake Forest has rolled up at least 500 yards of offense and 50 points in each of its first two games, so this unit is obviously enjoying a great start to the campaign. However, the Deacons enter the game with a bit of uncertainty surrounding the QB position, as starter Ted Stachitas left the game against Duke with a bruised left (non-throwing) hand. Stachitas, a dual-threat, led the team with 77 rushing yards, but his status is uncertain. True freshman Tanner Price replaced the redshirt sophomore and Wake Forest didn’t miss a beat, as he threw for 190 yards and three TDs, while rushing for 56 yards and another score. Tanner’s performance earned him praise from Grobe and possibly the start this weekend.

“I think the thing I liked the most is that he didn’t seem like a true freshman,” stated Grobe. “I thought just watching him you would never be able to tell by his demeanor today and the way he executed and ran the offense, that he was a freshman. He looked like a more veteran quarterback out there today.”

Both QBs add another dimension to the ground attack, which has amassed over 600 yards in just two games. Redshirt freshman Josh Harris has shown a good burst through two games with 124 rushing yards and two scores, while WR Chris Givens displayed his explosiveness with 159 receiving yards and a TD last weekend.

Defensively, Wake Forest was exploited in the shootout with Duke, which racked up 487 total yards, including 358 through the air. The unit also had trouble with the pass in the opener, allowing Presbyterian to throw for 292 yards. On a positive note, the Deacons have recorded four INTs already and that has helped compensate for some of the yards surrendered through the air.

Alex Frye came up with two of the team’s three picks last weekend versus Duke, while Kyle Wilber finished with a club-high seven tackles. Wilber was an even bigger influence in the opener when he registered three sacks and five TFLs, so Stanford will need to keep an eye out for him.

Coming off a career performance, QB Andrew Luck was decent last weekend versus UCLA, throwing for 151 yards and two scores while adding 63 yards on the ground. Luck, who threw for 315 yards and four TDs in the opener against Sacramento State, completed only 11-of-24 tosses against UCLA, the reason for the effort being considered modest.

When looking deeper however, the performance by Luck could be considered good when taking into account Stanford was without two offensive weapons in RB Jeremy Stewart and WR Chris Owusu. Stewart started the season opener, but sat out with an ankle injury versus UCLA and is questionable for this weekend. Owusu meanwhile, has missed the first two games with an undisclosed injury and the playmaker is also listed a questionable for this one.

Even without those two key players, the Cardinal has been able to move the ball, especially on the ground, where the team has averaged 212 ypg through the first two contests.

The defense stole the show for the Cardinal last weekend, as Stanford posted its first road shutout since a 17-0 blanking of Oregon in 1974. The Cardinal’s dominated from start-to-finish, holding UCLA to just 233 total yards while forcing four turnovers. The unit permitted just 81 yards through the air, an incredible performance considering Stanford ranked 110th of 120 FBS schools in pass defense last season. Furthermore, the Cardinal came up with three sacks for the second game in a row and held UCLA to just a 1-of-9 effort on third downs.

“We got some big sacks when they were threatening our side of the field. We certainly packed the defense this week,” stated Harbaugh.

Michael Thomas even scored on 21-yard fumble return in the win, as he finished with two forced fumbles and a five tackles.

This should be an interesting game, as Stanford is coming off a shutout win while Wake Forest has totaled over 100 points in two games. Go with the Cardinal, which is playing at home and can run the ball well enough to keep the Deacons’ offense off the field.

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