Ahead of tonight’s Pac-12 After Dark matchup with the Stanford Cardinal, Channel Tree Sports reached out to answer ATQ’s questions ahead of the game. Sam Weyen of Channel Tree Sports was very kind in lending us some of his time before tonight’s game.
ATQ: The impending departure of USC and UCLA, and the survivability of the Pac-12, continues to be a hot topic for every remaining team. What is the feeling with the Cardinal fanbase about how the future plays out for Stanford? What is your perspective?
CTS: Ahhh yes, conference realignment—the force that emboldened delusional Big 12 fans, increased Larry Scott hatred, and made everyone and their dogs follow Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) and John Canzano (@johncanzanobft) on Twitter.
For starters, I hate this. I love the Pac-12; I love its 100+ years of traditions and rivalries; and more broadly, I love the regionality of college football. Seeing ESPN and Fox consolidate schools with the endgame of some continent-spanning Super League of Blue Bloods™️ pushes me further and further from the game I love.
As for what will happen in the short and medium term? I expect the remainder of the Pac to stick together. I think Big 12 poaching talk is laughable without another seismic event preceding it, I don’t see the Big Ten adding more schools until Notre Dame’s next media deal is set, and I think the Pac has a chance to transition to streaming (under Amazon?) and differentiate themselves positively as linear television continues its decline.
If the Big Ten does come calling, I feel good about Stanford’s chances. While our CFB and MBB teams are mediocre, we still lead the nation in NCAA national championships and have powerhouse programs in virtually every other sport. Plus, we’re an attractive add-on as a GPA booster for any P5 conference—something that at least Notre Dame cares about, making us a good signing partner in that case.
But who knows. Maybe UCLA gets smacked by the California Regents and crawls back to us. Maybe U$C sinks into the earth and is consumed by magma. It could happen
ATQ: The pandemic season aside, the Cardinal has not had a winning season since 2018. Talk is beginning to generate about David Shaw being on the hot seat. What is your view on this? As you see it, is Shaw on the hot seat?
CTS: I think Shaw gets at least another year, barring a 1-11 season. Despite his frustratingly archaic views on analytics and his dismal record the last several years, he remains both an alum and the winningest coach in Stanford history. OG fans have been down on Shaw since 2016, but Athletics is fixated on his upside, recognizing that finding a new coach (who if successful would likely be poached by another program) who plays by the rules (read: has never bribed players) would be very challenging.
It’s also worth mentioning that NIL and the rise of the transfer portal is disproportionately devastating to Stanford. We get maybe 1 transfer a year who can meet the ever-rising academic standard (compare to U$C’s 29 this season). We don’t have the quantity of cash happy boosters of rival programs. It’s an uphill battle for Stanford as CFB professionalizes.
So yes, the seat is hot, but the evidence needs to be overwhelming to send our AD into recruitment mode. Shaw gets yet another chance.
ATQ: Stanford comes to Autzen having had some significant injuries on offense. How concerned are you about Stanford’s ability to put up points? Will McKee get the pass protection that he needs?
CTS: We are indeed beat up. Our RB1 EJ Smith is out for the year, but his backup Casey Filkins rushed for 100 yards against Washington and seems a worthy replacement. Honestly, the narrative about our offense is a bit flawed. We gained 441 yards on U$C (to their 505). We gained 372 yards on Washington (to their 478). Outgained both times, but by far less than the scoreboard would imply. Stanford can get yards, we’ve just struggled to convert in the redzone, mostly thanks to a 7-0 turnover differential in our last two games (with at least two of those within the 5 yard line). I’m personally more concerned about resolving the turnover problem than McKee’s pass protection with respect to scoring points, but I suppose we’ll see at game time.
ATQ: Stanford comes to Autzen as an underdog; however, the Cardinal has spoiled many a season for the Ducks. What needs to happen for Stanford to pull off yet another upset?
CTS: Don’t be so humble, you’ve spoiled many a season for us as well! Christian McCaffrey’s 2015 Heisman season comes to mind…
As I said, if Stanford didn’t have a -7 turnover differential across their U$C and Washington matchups, those would’ve been very different games. The key for Stanford is to hold onto the football and keep slinging it to Michael Wilson (who went for 176 yards and 2TDs last game). Consensus has formed that the defense can not and will not participate in anything positive, so if the OLine can give McKee even slightly below average play and McKee keeps playing like he has, Stanford has a chance to play spoiler yet again.
ATQ: Who is on offense that Ducks fans may not necessarily know about and should keep an eye on?
CTS: TE Benjamin Yurosek has been quiet this year (other than a bizarre 50-yard rushing TD), but he’s got the makings of an NFL TE, if he isn’t forced to block every snap. Most importantly, his grandfather is the inventor of the baby carrot, so now you have cause to root for him too.
ATQ: Who is on defense that Ducks fans may not necessarily know about and should keep an eye on?
Senior safety Kendall Williamson has had himself a year so far, grabbing an interception and earning 19 tackles. He may not get called at draft night, but he’ll be a difference maker backstage, so to speak.
ATQ: Tell us how you see this game playing out and what your score prediction is.
CTS: Despite the optimism expressed here, I don’t see Stanford pulling it together in their third consecutive game against a ranked opponent. I see another sloppy Stanford performance where beefy yardage translates into an insubstantial point total, delicately garnished with a -2 turnover differential. Oregon wins 38-17. Go Card *he says, quietly weeping into his 2016 Rose Bowl t-shirt*