The Stanford Cardinal may have squeaked by with a 20-17 win over San Jose State on Saturday, but in a sport like college football – where beating a team 49-10 will get you dropped in the rankings – winning isn’t always enough.
Even with the Cardinal moving on from star quarterback Andrew Luck, the Cardinal were still favored by 25 points coming into their Week 1 meeting with the Spartans. They fell from 21st to 25th in the AP’s NCAA rankings following the game – evidence that few around the college football world were impressed by the 3-point victory.
They will have a chance to improve when they take on the Duke Blue Devils this Saturday night in Palo Alto, but it may not be so easy.
A look at Duke
Okay, so they’re not the USC Trojans (the team the Cardinal face next weekend), but the Duke Blue Devils will pose a more formidable challenge to Stanford than San Jose State did.
Duke is coming off of a 46-26 victory over Florida International University; a game in which they enjoyed a 30-point second quarter. Their starting quarterback, Sean Renfree, went 21-30 for 290 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception.
But Renfree wasn’t the only offensive contributor. Head coach David Cutliffe said this offseason that he will get all three of his quarterbacks involved, and he did a little bit of that Saturday, featuring both Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette (who threw one of Duke’s six touchdowns) at certain points in the game.
The Blue Devils’ ground game appears as versatile as their passing attack; the game featured runs from eight different players, including all three quarterbacks. The team combined to carry the ball 30 times for 119 yards, and their leading rusher was sophomore running back Josh Snead, who touched the ball 7 times for 47 yards (6.7 avg) and a touchdown.
Duke’s weakness appears to be their defense. The Blue Devils allowed Florida International to out-gain them, 513 yards to 420. FIU quarterback Jake Medlock threw for 348 yards and 2 touchdowns. Duke also let running back Kedrick Rhode amass 130 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. This should bode well for both Stepfan Taylor and Josh Nunes, who will be looking to build on solid Week 1 performances.
Shayne Skov makes his return
Skov had to watch his Cardinal open up the season last Saturday from his couch at home, serving a one-game suspension for a DUI arrest.
”The first half, I was pretty quiet,” Skov said. ”The second half, I started getting pretty frustrated.”
Saturday’s game wasn’t the only one Skov missed; he’s been out of football for almost 12 months after injuring his knee against the Arizona Wildcats in Stanford’s third game. Stanford’s leading tackler in 2010, Skov returns in time to face a Duke offense that could more explosive than San Jose State’s.
Odds and ends
–Stanford and Duke met in Week 2 of last season as well, with the Cardinal prevailing 44-14. However, the game was closer than expected early on as a Duke touchdown late in the second quarter made the score 10-7. Stanford responded with five unanswered touchdowns and fans on The Farm let out a collective sigh of relief.
– The Cardinal are 2-1 all time against the Blue Devils. The one win represents the last time Duke defeated a ranked team on the road: a 9-3 victory over Stanford in 1971.
– Per @StanfordRivals on Twitter, the Cardinal made a few slight depth chart changes. Among them: Shayne Skov’s insertion into the starting lineup at inside linebacker with James Vaughters, and Wayne Lyons starting at right cornerback with Barry Browning. Lee Ward and Patrick Skov (yep, Shayne’s brother) are listed as starting and backup fullbacks, respectively.