Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 6-3 Stanford

November 11, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 11, 2016

This time, I took my own suggestion.

On Saturday, I wound up strolling around Cary, N.C., to get in my exercise for the day prior to the Stanford football game against Oregon State. I ended up covering more than three and a half miles over four different stretches, and (as you know) the Cardinal ended up beating the Beavers, 26-15.

Nov. 5, 2016, walk in Cary, N.C.

Nov. 5, 2016, walk in Cary, N.C.

Since I took a long walk, also in Cary, before the Notre Dame game, which Stanford won, and since I didn’t do any walking — or actually I did, but not very much — before the Colorado game, which Stanford lost, I may have inadvertently established a new Stanford football pregame tradition (or is that superstition?) for myself.

And yes, it definitely felt great to (a) get a win and (b) go over .500 in conference play.

• The Bad 

Oy vey.

Stanford’s offense converted four of its 15 third-down attempts on Saturday. While that isn’t the team’s worst performance this year — that dubious honor was “earned” in the University of Washington fiasco, when the Cardinal converted two (!) or 12 (!!) opportunities — it’s still notably awful.

Unless there’s some improvement in this category, Stanford will suffer in the home stretch of the season. Therefore it’s a no-brainer for me to dub the team’s third-down conversion rate this week’s The Bad.

• The Ugly 

Stanford has an offensive production problem. The team is last in the Pac-12 in total offense with 2,860 yards on the year (318 per game). It’s also last in the conference in passing offense with 1,285 yards (143 per game). The Cardinal is ranked 87th in the nation for red zone offense, having scored on 17 of its 21 visits (81 percent) to the red zone. That’s not a bad percentage, but the squad has made fewer trips inside the opposing 20 than any other team in college football.

Stanford has a scoring problem. Stanford is ranked 120th out of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in this category, having amassed 14 field goals and just 19 touchdowns. The team is averaging 19.9 points per game, which puts it ahead of only four Power Five teams: Kansas, Rutgers, Boston College and South Carolina.

Stanford has a finishing problem. Not counting the club’s final offensive possession, when head coach David Shaw ordered the squad to run out the clock, the Cardinal had 12 drives, eight of which advanced to the Oregon State 30-yard line or farther. For the team to settle for two touchdowns and three field goals — one of which Conrad Ukropina actually booted from the OSU 35 — is downright embarrassing.

The offensive issues are all problems, but hey, the team has a winning record overall and in the Pac-12, so I’ll be generous and not categorize these things as The Bad. Also, Stanford does has a decent scoring rate in its relatively few red zone trips. QED: The Cardinal’s sketchy offensive production is this week’s The Ugly.

• The Good 

Stanford generated a season-high 365 running yards against the Beavers. Christian McCaffrey’s 199 yards on 35 rushes (6.2 yards per carry) were nicely complemented by Bryce Love and Chryst, who respectively carried nine times for 89 yards (9.9 ypc) and 11 times for 83 yards (7.5 ypc). That is phenomenal.

Oregon State managed to sack Chryst just one time. That’s also phenomenal.

Hopefully, these are indications that an at-times shaky offensive line is coming together. Regardless of what happens in the future, the Stanford offensive line’s play against the Beavers definitely merits being called The Good.


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