Stanford vs. Duke Preview 2011

Stanford enters this game as the 6th ranked team in the nation and as the 22 point favorite to win over Duke. Duke went 3-9 last year and has already opened up this season with a loss to Richmond. Since Stanford already dominated last week in a rout of the San Jose Spartans, they should put on a similar performance against the Blue Devils.

Things to watch:

  1. **Offensive play calling: **The Cardinal, despite putting up 57 points, did nothing too drastic on offense. The play calling was conservative and Coach David Shaw chose to run the ball for the majority of the game. Quarterback Andrew Luck last week, throwing for 176 yards and two touchdowns. He did, however, look a little out of sync with his receivers on a couple of throws. This game against Duke is a good chance to iron out any difficulties the offense is having, especially since Duke gave up over 40 points in four games last year. The running game was also not quite as effective as expected. Running back Stepfan Taylor only averaged 3.4 yards per carry, which is well below his 5.1 yards per carry average from one year ago. Look for Stanford to put up a lot of points this week and specifically at how those points are scored.

  2. **Rookies on Defense: **Linebacker James Vaughters and defensive back Wayne Lyons showed some flashes last week. Even as freshmen, they are going to be getting playing time because they can help this team immediately. Vaughters is going to augment an already stout linebacker rotation but Lyons will have a chance to really help out the secondary. Last week, the defense still showed some vulnerability against crossing routes and big passing plays. Also, once Spartan players reached that second level, they were able to break off tackles and get even more yards. The tackling in this area needs to improve to minimize any damage done. A school like Oregon will be hard to stop if the offensive skill players for the opposition are allowed to run amok.

  3. Run Stuffing: Vaughters’ presence might not be as noticed because the front seven for Stanford is already super solid. Last week, they allowed 27 yards on the ground with a 0.8 yards per carry average. Junior defensive end Ben Gardner really shined last week, helping to fill the big hole left by Sione Fua, who is now in the pros. Linebackers Chase Thomas and Shayne Skov were all over the field last week as well, making some great tackles and even lighting up the San Jose State quarterback a few times.

  4. National Pressure: Being a highly touted team, it will important to see how the team responds to all the hype around them. They showed up last week and dominated a clearly inferior squad. However, it will be important for the team to stay focused, especially when they are in games they should win. All Cardinal athletes and fans should remember how an unranked Stanford team defeated USC 24-23 and derailed the Trojans’ national championship hopes that year. In order to get consideration, they will have to play flawless. That means showing up for every game, even these little ones. Shaw has had the team focused so far and that intensity needs to be maintained throughout the season.

  5. **The Luck Successor: **This is one of the few games where a quarterback not named Andrew Luck may be likely to play. Sophomore Brett Nottingham looked very good last week and seems to have the backup quarterback job at the moment. He showed a big arm and good accuracy on the one throw he made last week. It is nice to know that there is another very good quarterback waiting in the wings. Hopefully, he will only have to show his stuff at the end of games which have already been decided.

Expect Stanford to win this game easily. The team has the better athletes and currently has a little bit of swagger as well. Duke should be a nice warmup for next week’s game against Arizona, which will be the first test of the season.

Subscribe to the Stanford Review