The first season of Pac-12 football features two coaches in their first years. It's safe to say that Stanford's David Shaw and Colorado's Jon Embree are in very different situations. Andrew Luck and the seventh-ranked Cardinal seek to extend the nation's longest win streak to 13 games Saturday when they try to hand the lowly Buffaloes a 19th straight road loss.
Shaw took over when Jim Harbaugh left to coach the San Francisco 49ers. The former Cardinal offensive coordinator inherited a team that went 12-1 in 2010 and became a preseason national contender when Heisman Trophy runner-up Luck opted to return to school. Embree, meanwhile, was hired to resurrect a program that had endured five straight losing seasons heading into its first year in the Pac-12.
The Buffaloes (1-4, 0-1) lost their final 13 Big 12 road games and will be playing their first game away from home in their new conference against a player Embree calls "the Franchise." Luck put all those skills on display in last Saturday's 45-19 home win over UCLA. He completed 23 of 27 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns and also caught a 13-yard pass from wide receiver Drew Terrell that sparked a 99-yard drive. That kind of efficiency is why Shaw said he has ceded control of the offense to the player who's a near lock to be the top overall selection in the NFL draft.
Luck has 17 touchdown passes to two interceptions in 10 career conference home games. His 24 victories overall as a starter have tied Steve Stenstrom's school record for a quarterback. Stanford (4-0, 2-0) is seeking its first 5-0 start since 1951 and can match the school record by winning 13 in a row for the first time since 1939-41.
Colorado owns the Pac-12's second-best passing defense, allowing 222.0 yards per game. That's despite being forced to use tailback Brian Lockridge and receiver Jason Espinoza at cornerback due to injuries. The Buffaloes are eighth in the conference in yielding 127.4 yards per game on the ground and are wary of a Stanford rushing attack that has averaged 197.5 yards and scored 11 touchdowns.
Keeping Luck off the field should be difficult since Colorado owns the 15th-worst rushing attack in the FBS, averaging 101.4 yards. Colorado will be hard-pressed to bounce back after blowing a 10-point lead in the final 2:35 against Washington St, prompting Embree to challenge his team in the locker room afterward. Embree suspended five defensive players indefinitely Thursday for violating unspecified team rules. The suspended players include defensive backs Josh Moten, Ayodeji Olatoye, Parker Orms and Paul Vigo, along with linebacker Liloa Nobriga. Orms was the only starter among the group, but didn't play last weekend due to a leg injury.
Luck has thrown for over 1,000 yards and 11 TD against just 1 INT. Expect him to expose an untested Colorado secodnary and use methodical tempo to run the ball against an overmatched defense. With Luck calling the plays in the no-huddle offense, Colorado will be off balance for much of the afternoon and may have to rely on turnovers to create field position and opportunities. Stanford rolls big time this evening, and I end by mini-slide in blowout fashion. Best of luck however you play!