Vegas has Stanford as 17-point favorites at home against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons this Saturday night. The Nevadan odds-makers must have faith in the Cardinal defense: Wake Forest is currently 4th in the country in scoring offense and has posted an average of 53.5 points per game over their first two matchups. The rushing attack leads the way for Wake Forest, which has already produced 644 yards on the ground with an extremely balanced personnel. Wake’s leading rusher, sophomore quarterback Ted Stachitas, won’t even start on Saturday, as freshman Tanner Price will play QB-1. Redshirt freshman Josh Harris–Wake’s most productive running back–has only gotten 18 carries, but has averaged 6.9 yards per rushing attempt and has scored twice. 8 players have completed runs of at least 10 yards for Wake Forest this season (Stanford has 6), and 6 players have at least 50 rushing yards on the year (Stanford has 5). The running game also gives carries to a multitude of positions. Among the Deacons’ top 6 rushers, 2 are quarterbacks, 1 is a wide receiver, 1 is a linebacker (yes, a linebacker), 1 is a fullback, and only 1 (the aforementioned Josh Harris) plays tailback.
Regarding the Wake Forest passing game: no one really knows what freshman Tanner Price can do. The true freshman will make his first collegiate start on Saturday against Stanford, a school that offered him a scholarship. Tanner has seen game action, though. Coming off the bench against Presbyterian and Duke this season, Price threw 13 completions in 26 attempts for 194 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He has been effective but not great, and let’s face it: Presbyterian and Duke are not top-flite football teams. His production should go down against a Stanford defense that shut down UCLA in Pasadena last week and features players significantly more talented than those that play for either of the two schools Price has played against thus far. Furthermore, Price was less than a stud coming out of high school last year. After Stanford and Wake Forest, Price’s top schools were Louisiana Tech, Rice, Tulsa, and a handful of Ivy League teams. The Austin, Texas native received a 3-star rating from Rivals and was called the 35th-best quarterback recruit in the Class of 2010. Though Price could develop into a great player, he needs time to develop. (Interesting tidbit about Price: his high school team called itself the Chaparrals, which is also the name of Stanford’s comedy magazine.) Here’s a look at Price as a high school quarterback for Westlake High School in Austin:
Stanford should keep the pressure on Price to keep him from getting comfortable and establishing a rhythm. By freaking out the young quarterback early, Stanford can eliminate Wake’s passing game and force the Deacons to depend upon a great day from the running game against a Cardinal defense that will be stacking the box. Considering that sophomore inside linebacker Shayne Skov is back in the lineup this week, Wake Forest will have a difficult time running the ball effectively, let alone keeping up with their gaudy rushing average. A poor performance by the shaky Card secondary would signal trouble, considering the youth of not only Price, but also the youth of a large portion of the Wake Forest offense. Though there undoubtably will be plays in which the Stanford secondary will look overmatched, they will do an overall above-average job.
For the Stanford offense, Wake Forest is a bigger push-over than UCLA. Wake has allowed an average of 30.5 points per game (good for 95th in the nation) against fairly pathetic teams. Look for Andrew Luck to get back on track after last weekend’s mediocre passing performance. He’ll likely have wide receiver Chris Owusu back, and the added weapon will cut down on the number of times Luck simply doesn’t have an open receiver. That happened several times against UCLA. Expect somewhere between 325 and 350 yards for Luck, along with 3 touchdowns and 55 yards with his feet. As we mentioned on Monday during our reflections on the UCLA game, sophomore running back Stepfan Taylor should get more carries (say 25-28) and accumulate somewhere around 100 yards and a score. With one more punch-in TD from senior fullback/middle linebacker Owen Marecic and a couple of field goals from Nate Whitaker (who is 3-3 this season and is perfect in his last 8 attempts), look for Stanford to score 41 points on Saturday night. If the Cardinal defense falters and allows the Wake Forest offense to score like it has the last two weeks, Harbaugh will give Luck the green light to let loose, throw for over 400 yards, and post 50 or more points.
Either way, Stanford will cover Vegas’s spread.
Verdict: Stanford beats Wake Forest, 41-17