GJB: Do you think Stanford is a bit more at ease knowing they have UCLA next or is their more urgency to get the win?
GMC: I truly hope that no one in the program feels at ease about anything right now. At this point, playing Rice again would be a big game. I don’t think it’s desperation time for the Cardinal, but aside from Bryce Love, there aren’t too many things that can be counted on for sure right now. You could argue, I suppose, that UCLA is the perfect opponent for Stanford right now, but not for the reason you might think. The nine-game winning streak doesn’t guarantee a Stanford victory, but the pressure of that streak could provide the urgency that’s necessary right now. If there’s anything that might put the team at ease it’s that this is their first home game of the season, which will be nice.
GJB: Is QB Keller Chryst having an off year? Was his performance against SDSU an anomaly?
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GMC: It’s hard to say that Chryst is having an off year because we haven’t seen him have an on year. It was a surprise when he didn’t win the starting job for the season opener in 2016, and although he led the Cardinal to five straight wins after taking over for Ryan Burns, he never really looked overly impressive. He managed the game well, scrambled for first downs when necessary, and threw for relatively high completion percentage, but he did so against the five worst defenses on the schedule. He defied all odds in recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the Sun Bowl, but once again he’s been less than what was expected.
Last week was, hopefully, rock bottom: 9 for 20, 72 yards, 2 interceptions, a fumble, 4.8 QBR. It doesn’t get much worse than that. The vast majority of Stanford fans and observers I spoke with following the game were hoping that backup K.J. Costello would be elevated to the starting role this week, but that doesn’t look likely.
Immediately after the game Shaw admitted that Chryst hadn’t played well, but he spent the rest of the week explaining that there were things he had done well. At this point I’d be stunned if Chryst didn’t get the nod on Saturday.
GJB: Bryce Love is an incredible running back (he has the second most rushing yards in the nation) so is Stanford going to put their hopes in him, knowing UCLA does not have a good run game?
GMC: Here’s a UCLA analogy for you. If Christian McCaffrey was Kareem, Bryce Love is Walton. I have argued that McCaffrey is the greatest player in the history of Stanford football, but Love is pretty special in his own right. As you mention, his numbers have been eye-popping this season, but here’s the eye-poppingest number there is — he has a streak of five games in a row with a run of fifty yards or more. Last week he had two, plus another run of 47. He’s just as fast as McCaffrey, and like his predecessor he’s a threat to score any time he touches the ball.
There were some questions about how effective he’d be as an every down back, which is odd because he went over a hundred yards in both of his starts last season, but all doubts have been erased this year. He’s not the Swiss Army knife that McCaffrey was, lining up all over the field; instead he does what he does in a much more conventional way. Most of his runs are between the tackles, with an occasional sweep thrown in just for fun. Considering all that, the answer to your question is yes, Stanford is going to put their hopes in him.