We were lucky enough to sit down with Colton Molesky of Rule of Tree! For those interested, here’s a link to ATQ’s responses on Rule of Tree.
ATQ: Three games in, how do you feel about KJ Costello? Seven touchdowns to three interceptions and a 61.4% completion rate, is this about what Cardinal fans expected at this point in the season? What have been his weaknesses? What are his strengths?
RULE OF TREE: Costello was looking pretty great until throwing two picks to UC Davis. It seems far too soon to throw the game manager tag on him yet, especially when this is his best receiving core yet, but his numbers will fluctuate with how much Shaw feels like he can run Love. He can win games, now just needs to avoid the temptation to do too much.
ATQ: Oregon’s receiving corps has been inconsistent to say the least. How likely do you think it is that Shaw focuses on stopping the run and forces Herbert (and his receivers) to beat them?
ROT: The priority is to stop the passing attack, there just is a couple ways they attack the Ducks’ air raid. With the defensive line still lacking a game-changing star, the linebackers are going to be the group that wins this game. Their ability to cover space in coverage and create a pass rush will change how Stanford runs their coverages. If they break through, Stanford will keep the safeties back, but we already saw Shaw bring corners in on different pressure looks since linebackers like Okereke are so reliable in coverage. The linebackers pressure ability will control the coverage.
ATQ: Bryce Love has yet to have a Bryce Love game. in fact, the rushing game in general seems to be a bit off. How much of this is on the offensive line and how much of this is due to opponents stacking the box?
ROT: The box has been loaded, but it was last season. The line is failing to get consistent blocking through the middle and to the second level. But the outside running scheme has been solid and is something the Ducks will probably see a lot of on Saturday.
ATQ: Oregon’s offensive line has been alright in the run game, but excellent against the pass rush. Which Stanford players are most likely to sack Herbert?
ROT: Bobby Okereke and Joey Alfieri are versatile linebackers that can creep up to the line and either rush the passer or drop into coverage, meaning the blitz can come from anywhere. They will pester Herbert.
ATQ: Stanford has allowed only two touchdowns in three games. What has impressed you most about the Cardinal defense?
ROT: The defense has been superb on the back end, with Alijah Holder back and both Alameen Murphy and Paulson Adobe showing up in a big way on the back end, the Cardinal have been able to depend on the secondary to stay consistent. On the front, the Cardinal have found a pass rush that has worked around the lack of a star on the defensive line. Because of the ability to depend on their linebackers in space while covering, the Cardinal have been able to play very creatively when blitzing, meaning the pressure can come from literally anywhere.
ATQ: Who is set to have a big performance on offense and defense for the Cardinal? And how does the game go down, what are your predictions and end score?
ROT: On defense, Alijah Holder has a huge night, both in the secondary against a spotty receiving core and up front, coming in on several blitz packages to make plays in the pocket. For offense, I will avoid an uber obvious answer and go with Kaden Smith, Stanford’s tight end. Because the Cardinal will need to run the ball outside, play action will start to flow everything to the edges, leaving deep drag routes over the middle wide open as safeties get greedy trying to play a downfield gap.
The Stanford Cardinal still have the superior combination of defense and a running game the Ducks simply have no answer for, which is how the Cardinal pull ahead. Early running from Bryce Love will lead to big plays in the passing game, then a Ducks offense playing from behind will be victimized by the new look Stanford defense. Stanford wins 44-31.