Between Falcons/Saints and Mets/Dodgers, you may have forgotten all about Stanford/UCLA on Thursday night.
Well, that’s a shame – because Stanford showed yet again that it is a legitimate threat to win the Pac-12.
The No. 15 Cardinal dominated No. 18 UCLA, 56-35, thanks in large part to Christian McCaffrey, who rushed for 243 yards and four touchdowns. As a team, Stanford rushed 48 times for 310 yards, while Kevin Hogan was an efficient 8-of-15 for 131 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Stanford (5-1, 4-0) has now won five straight games since losing its season-opener to Northwestern – all by double digits.
“After the first game, to me, it’s just been total total revamp of getting back to what they do,” CBS Sports college football analyst Houston Nutt said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “You talk about fundamentally sound, coming downhill with people running the football. To me, Hogan has done an excellent job with play-action and keeping people off balance, hitting some timely throws. But the bottom line is, their blocking and their tackling (is) a whole lot better than a lot of people right now. Very physical.”
Stanford/UCLA was a nice appetizer for the college football feast that is this weekend. Four more top-20 match-ups await on Saturday, including No. 10 Alabama (5-1, 2-1) at No. 9 Texas A&M (5-0, 2-0). The Tide are coming off wins against Georgia and Arkansas, while A&M is coming off a bye.
Expect hitting. A lot of it.
“Bama right now, to me, has the best defense in the country,” Nutt said. “If you look at the depth, especially the front seven, there’s some things that go unnoticed as far as just on the stat sheet. You look at that defensive front, they’re not seven deep. They’re about 12, 13, 14 deep. They bat passes down. You’ll love this because in basketball you love deflections and getting your hands on the ball. Well, guess what? These defensive linemen may not be the quickest to get back to the quarterback, but they’ll go to a certain point and then their hands are up in passing lanes. They’re knocking balls down. They’ve knocked 15 balls this year. Since 2009, they’ve given up the fewest touchdowns in America. This is a heck of a defense.”
Alabama has given up just 24 points in its last three games combined and has allowed just one opponent – Ole Miss – to score more than 17 points in a game all season. With a defense like that, the Tide don’t need to do anything fancy on offense.
And they usually don’t.
“Offensively, if Lane Kiffin will be patient and hand the ball to Derrick Henry over and over and over, it sets up – because they found them a receiver,” Nutt said. “Now, have they filled the shoes of Amari Cooper? No, but they found them a receive in a true freshman by the name of Ridley. Calvin Ridley.”
Ridley leads Alabama with 31 catches for 385 yards and three touchdowns. He has scored a touchdown in three straight games and has 14 catches for 260 yards over the last two weeks.
“This guy can take it off the top. He can get behind the secondary,” Nutt said. “I’ll tell you: He’s a good route runner and he’s becoming much, much better with each week.”
Alabama and A&M kick off Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET.