Both UCF and Stanford are looking for redemption this week in the first ever meeting between the two teams on Saturday. In fact, neither team has ever played an opponent from the other's state. It's safe to say that there's not a lot of familiarity between these fan bases.
The upshot is that as part of the SB Nation network, we've got access to experts who cover just about every FBS college football team out there. We got together with Tony Fernandes at Rule of Tree who answered some of our questions about Stanford. You can follow Tony on Twitter at @ToneFernSports.
1. Like the Knights, Stanford had a disappointing first game. Despite the loss, were there any positives from your perspective?
In any game, there are always positives, even in such a disappointing finish for the Cardinal. The play of the front seven defenders was very impressive. Sophomore Harrison Phillips was dominant before going out to a lower leg injury and Senior Azziz Shittu came back from injury and played very well. Also, graduate transfer Brennan Scarlett controlled the line of scrimmage and made a few big plays in his first game with the Cardinal.
2. It struck me that the play calling in the Northwestern game was too conservative. Am I being fair? And is this consistent with typical Stanford play-calling?
You are being completely fair. Everyone always asks if the play calling is too conservative. I will say this; Coach David Shaw knows when his team is on, and when they may need to be held in check. Coach Shaw was very adamant in post-game stressing the fact that the play calling was his choice, and that this team is a work in progress. He is trying to figure out what pieces go where, and how they will be successful. Personally, I believe he saw something in the team that made him apprehensive, and wanted to limit mistakes as he may not have full trust in everyone's ability as of yet.
3. The Stanford secondary was not tested much last week. How do you expect they'll perform against the Knights' passing attack?
Stanford is very young in the defensive secondary. They lost starters to the NFL, to other universities, and to Major League Baseball. The Cardinal are starting a converted wide receiver and quarterback at the safety positions. The defensive secondary did look a step short against Northwestern as theirfFreshman QB was able to make a few big passes that cost the Cardinal opportunity to get the ball back in prime area. The Knights will test the secondary for sure, but the most important part for Stanford is to get pressure on the QB to help the secondary out.
4. The Stanford running game seemed lackluster against Northwestern. Do you expect it to improve versus UCF?
I do expect it to improve. Northwestern was absolutely flying around the ball, and keyed on Sophomore Christian McCaffrey on every play. I see more running plays off tackle; trying to get McCaffrey out in space. He is not a bruising style runner that Stanford has had in years past, he is an elusive runner out on the edges.
5. Let me ask you to be contrary to your rooting interests for the moment: give me your best argument why UCF can beat Stanford.
Just like the adage goes; anyone can be beaten, no one is infallible. I think that if UCF can stop the run game, and the offense keeps the Cardinal defensive secondary on its heels, the Knights will have a chance at winning on Saturday. UCF is well coached and has talent on both sides of the ball. It should be a great game on Saturday on the Farm.