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Washington vs. Stanford Football Prediction and Preview

Tanner McKee, Stanford Cardinal Football

Tanner McKee and the Cardinal host the Huskies on Saturday night in a matchup of Pac-12 North teams hoping to get back to .500 on the season

A Pac-12 North series that has often been for divisional supremacy in recent years is a fight to keep postseason aspirations alive when Stanford hosts Washington on Halloween eve.

Stanford (3-4, 2-3 Pac-12), which has been up-and-down from week to week, comes in off its bye. The Cardinal are on a two-game losing skid after dropping a wild back-and-forth affair on Oct. 16 at Washington State.

Washington (3-4, 2-2) needed a fourth-quarter rally against winless Arizona last Friday. The Huskies avoided what would have been a devastating defeat but now face a brutal three-game stretch with this visit to Stanford, rival Oregon on Nov. 6, and Pac-12 South contender Arizona State coming to Husky Stadium on Nov. 13. 

Each team needs this win Saturday to reach .500 and likely preserve its respective bowl hopes.

Washington at Stanford

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 30 at 10:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1
Spread: Stanford -2.5

When Washington Has the Ball

Washington's offense this season has been, for lack a better term, putrid. The Huskies rank No. 103 in the FBS, but their 23.1 points per game average is inflated by a 52-point outing against one-win Arkansas State.

A scoreless first half at Arizona last Friday was arguably the nadir of a trying season. To Washington's credit, it got into the end zone three times in the second half on an Arizona defense that is not nearly as responsible for the Wildcats' struggles as the offense. And the Huskies mounted scoring drives with some explosive plays on those drives of 71, 81, and 82 yards.

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Dylan Morris is coming off a 13-of-21 game with two touchdowns and no picks, one of his best lines of the season. He could have some room to operate this week if Washington can jump-start its rushing attack against a Stanford defense that's been porous against the run.

The Cardinal have allowed 202.7 rushing yards per game and nearly five yards per carry. Opponents have gone for more than 200 yards on Stanford in five of seven contests, including three of its four losses.

When Stanford Has the Ball

It's easy to overlook given Stanford's sub-.500 record, but Tanner McKee has arguably been the best and most consistent quarterback in the Pac-12. He was excellent in the loss at Washington State, going 23-of-32 for 273 yards with two touchdowns, rushing for a third score, and not throwing a pick.

McKee's most vexing problem against Washington State was the constant duress he faced, particularly on Stanford's final drive. Washington has not gotten into the backfield much at all this season with just 11 sacks in seven games, but the opportunity could be there on Saturday.

Stanford's struggles to establish a rushing attack could allow the Huskies' defense to blitz more aggressively than it has much of the season. The Cardinal are averaging fewer than 95 rushing yards per game and rank No. 123 in the nation.

Final Analysis

These have been two of the Pac-12's more consistent programs for the last decade, but are decidedly Jekyll and Hyde in 2021. That makes this one a challenge to project. Stanford's shown more consistency on offense thanks to the outstanding play of McKee, which could be enough on its own to will the Cardinal to a crucial victory.

Prediction: Stanford 24, Washington 17 

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— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45 and subscribe to his newsletter, The Press Break.