The college football season enters its third week having already delivered us plenty of marquee match-ups. Last week, Stanford met USC in a Pac-12 conference game, and the Trojans dominated the Cardinal 42-24, while racking up over 600 yards of offense on the day. That’s not an effort we typically see out of a David Shaw-coached squad. Heading into this week, the Cardinal will face another physical offensive team when they head to San Diego to take on Rocky Long and the San Diego State Aztecs.
With the game set to be broadcast on CBS Sports Network, we caught up with college football analyst Jay Feely, who, along with Ben Holden and sideline reporter John Schriffen, will bring you all the action Saturday night between the Cardinal and the Aztecs.
CBS Local Sports: Stanford’s defense got dominated in a way we’re not used to seeing last week, giving up 600 yards of offense, 300 rushing. Are you concerned about that unit following that performance?
Jay Feely: Well, if you look at USC and what they did, they deserve more credit. Then you would look at Stanford and say they deserve a lot of blame. Obviously, they’re unhappy with the way they played. But, Sam Darnold looked phenomenal.
You understand, if you watched that game, why he’s considered, if not the top prospect, one of the top prospects coming out next year. He made four or five throws that were NFL, Pro Bowl-quality throws. Going through his reads, making good decisions, I was just incredibly impressed. And, USC looked like the USC of old. They had speed, they had power, their offensive line were road blockers. They looked good all the way around.
Stanford will get back on track. It will be interesting to see two teams running a pro-style offense going against each other this weekend, because both of them have the same philosophy. They want to run the ball, they want to impose their will, and they want to play solid defense and create turnovers.
CBS Local Sports: You mention both teams playing pro-style offenses. For Stanford, the running game has continued to be effective with Bryce Love, while the passing game has struggled behind QB Keller Chryst. Where do you think the level of confidence in him is with Coach Shaw?
Jay Feely: They’re very confident still. He’s got very good touch, he throws perfect deep balls, doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, but they’re confident. They probably want him to be a little more accurate, as he’s just at 55 percent right now, but I expect him to get back on track and to take shots down the field. That’s what he’ll have to do against this defense.
When you look at San Diego State and what they do defensively in this 3-3-5, aggressive, attacking defense, you can beat them running the ball straight ahead at them and taking shots deep. So, I expect Stanford to come out and do a lot of both of those.
CBS Local Sports: For the Aztecs, they’ve been built upon that running game. In the past several years it was Donnel Pumphrey. Now, it’s Rashaad Penny carrying the load in what is a top-15 rushing attack. Is there a way for them to pull off the upset this Saturday?
Jay Feely: Yes, there definitely is. When you look at what they do defensively, and what they want to do offensively, they want to run the ball, protect the ball and stay out of third-and-long on offense. They have a great back in Rashaad Penny.
Not a lot of people know about him because he’s been behind a phenomenal back in Pumphrey, who set the NCAA record for rushing. Pumphrey had over 2,000 yards last year. But you look at Penny, and he also had over 1,000 yards himself, averaging over 7.5 yards per carry last year. He’s picked up right where he left off, averaging 10 yards per carry now, he’s got 413 yards rushing. He’s a stronger back, he’s 40 pounds heavier than Pumphrey was, but he also has breakaway speed. You can tell because he has six kickoff returns for touchdowns. So, he has that top-line speed balanced with the power.
Then, defensively, the way they beat Stanford is getting turnovers, and that’s what this defense is predicated on. They get pressure, they bring pressure from all over, and they try to create turnovers. Since 2005, San Diego State is number one in the country in turnover margin per game at +1.27 per game. They get turnovers, they get them in bunches. They’ve had 51 interceptions in that same time frame, that’s number one in the country as well. So, if they can rattle Chryst, and they can get to him and create pressure, and they can create turnovers, they can absolutely win this game.
CBS Local Sports: We’ve talked a little about how Stanford’s offense can attack SDSU’s defense, but how does the defense try and stop a guy like Penny?
Jay Feely: Well, you have to come up and tackle and not just arm tackle. You have to tackle him with your body and gang tackle, run to the ball. I thought that’s what stood out to me most in their loss to USC last week was USC’s ability to run the ball. I wasn’t surprised that Sam Darnold was able to throw the ball around, but rushing, giving up 307 yards to USC last week. That offensive line for USC just destroyed that (Stanford) front. And, you can see that San Diego State is going to try to do the same thing. They got big guys up front, all their guys are over 300.
Stanford has to step up and play solid, assignment-sound defense and come up and be ready to tackle Rashaad Penny. They have to tell (QB) Christian Chapman from San Diego State look, if you can beat us, we can live with that.
CBS Local Sports: Another Pac-12, Mountain West clash takes place that night with Oregon heading to Laramie to take on Wyoming. For the Ducks, they look like the Oregon of old so far averaging nearly 60 points per game, despite it being largely the same group from last year. What’s the biggest difference this season?
Jay Feely: You have to give Willie Taggart a ton of credit. He’s trying to create the environment where, it’s fun to be a part of that program. He is a physical, grinding, type of coach where he wants to get after his players and they had some issues this offseason. But he’s trying to create an atmosphere of fun that existed for a long time under Chip Kelly at Oregon and then kind of disappeared. Willie Taggart is trying to bring that back.
Look at USF last year and how they opened up that offense and let Quinton Flowers just run all over the field. That fit his style, and they’re doing the same thing there at Oregon. Looking at the pieces they have and creating favorable match-ups and utilizing the talent that they have.
CBS Local Sports: For Wyoming, their QB, Josh Allen, was mentioned as one of the top NFL prospects at that position heading into the year. With another opportunity to be in the national spotlight, does he live up to that billing?
Jay Feely: I love Josh Allen. He struggled a little bit against Iowa, made a couple of poor decisions, but he also made some throws that probably [only] four or five NFL quarterbacks that could make. He’s impressive and, when you come to the combine and all the stuff after the season, he’ll be one of the guys that teams will be drooling over because of all of his physical tools. His ability to run the ball, 6’5″, has just a canon for an arm, the ability to throw on the move, all of those things that you want.
It is a big opportunity for him, though, because he didn’t play his best game against Iowa. He can go out there and he can re-assert himself and make everybody talk about him again. Because going into the Iowa game, everybody was talking about him. Then he struggled in that game, and everybody kind of stopped talking about him. That’s the ebb and flow of college football, but it’s a great opportunity for Wyoming and for Josh Allen in particular.
CBS Local Sports: This game is in Laramie, what are the keys for victory for each team?
Jay Feely: For Oregon, you have to take advantage of your speed and take advantage of your playmakers. You have a decided advantage there. When you look at Wyoming, Josh Allen has to play mistake-free football. He has to take chances when he has the opportunity, but not turn the ball over, which is something that he did against Iowa. Last year, 3,200 yards, 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The interceptions are what kill you. The turnovers are what kill you when you’re the team trying to pull an upset like Wyoming is on Saturday night.