Back Stanford to Cover First Half vs. Washington on Friday

washington stanford

Rainman M.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 1:38 PM UTC

Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 1:38 PM UTC

Stanford (6-3) welcomes No. 9 Washington (8-1) Friday at 10:30 PM ET. Stanford looks to overtake Washington in the Pac 12 North standings and avenge last year's blowout. Washington is favored by 7.

Free NCAAF Pick: Stanford On First-Half Line (TK)Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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Washington Huskies at Stanford Cardinal

The Huskies are 0-4 ATS in the first half of road games. Their offense takes a long time to get going on the road, where they average 6.8 first-half points. At home, they average 25.5 first-half points. This point differential exists despite how easy their road schedule has been. They struggled early against Rutgers, Colorado, Oregon State and Arizona State.

Washington's slow starts offensively have been collaborative. The offensive line fails to live up to its preseason hype while on the road, where their sack percentage is more than 5% higher. The lack of protection for quarterback Jake Browning is critical. Browning needs time in the pocket for his receivers to develop their routes and get open. He is dependent on their route-running ability because he lacks the arm strength to zip balls into tight spaces. 

Due to the departure of wide receiver John Ross, the only talented big-play receiver whom Browning has available is Dante Pettis. While Pettis receives extra attention from the defense, Washington lacks another receiver who can quickly separate himself from defensive backs. Browning, like the rest of his offense, suffers on the road. His quarterback rating is 170 at home, but 139.5 on the road, where is he more conservative. The Huskies can rely on running back Myles Gaskin to wear down the opposing defense. But Gaskin averages 2.3 yards per carry fewer in the first half than the second. 

The strength of Stanford's defense is its secondary, which should only further encourage Washington to devote itself offensively to a conservative rush attack, as it did vs. Colorado and Oregon. Stanford's pass defense is ranked 57th in opposing QB rating, despite the number of prolific quarterbacks they have faced. Safety Justin Reid is improving his coverage skills and leads the Pac-12 with 5 interceptions. Quenton Meeks is Stanford's top secondary player. His strengths are in defending with his back turned and timing his attack against the ball.

Heisman candidate RB Bryce Love leads Stanford's offense against Washington's highly-ranked but untested run defense. Love is electric with his speed and ability to break through contact.  Washington's run defense has regressed by losing top tackler Budda Baker and superstar defensive tackle Elijah Qualls, who was the centerpiece of the Huskies' defensive line. Whereas Stanford's offensive line has proven its vast improvement from last season, in terms of sacks allowed and rushing yards per carry, Washington's run defense still has questions to answer against a superior running back whose quarterback can keep the defense honest.


The Verdict

The Huskies have struggled to get going in every road game. Both teams are different from last season. Browning has less support, while Gaskin will struggle to wear down Stanford's run defense. Love, behind better blocking, will challenge Washington's untested run defense minus Qualls and help secure for Stanford the early cover.

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