The Stanford Cardinal have begun to show signs of the team that won 11 games last year and went to their second straight BCS contest. Stanford has shown they can move the football more effectively, as Josh Nunes did a better job connecting with his potent tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo. With Ryan Hewitt supposedly coming back this week, Stanford's offense should be able to do a better job of moving the football through the air and get the run game going once again.
However, there are still definite issues with Stanford in the leadup to their game with USC, particularly with regards to stopping quarterbacks from passing on their teams. Despite still boasting a run defense that's conceded less than two yards per carry this year, the pass defense has allowed a 67% completion rate and 287 passing yards a game through two contests. Neither Duke nor San Jose State are known for their passing prowess, so it's a serious concern given that Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are coming to town this weekend.
How will Stanford stop Barkley? The answer might be pressure with their deep linebacking corps. Stanford radio announcer and former Cardinal player Todd Husak lays out his strategy at Rule of Tree.
When facing a great QB who has WRs that can beat 1 on 1 coverage, blitzes really expose the defense to big plays. I would stick with some zone blitz schemes that typically only bring 4 or 5 rushers but are designed to beat the pass protection. I do think that Shayne Skov and James Vaughters are excellent pass rushing LBs and would give them some opportunities to beat the young Center, but wouldn’t do it often.