The Stanford Cardinal have not had the season they thought they would. They won their first three games, but have dropped three of their last four. Overall, Stanford is 4-3 with a conference record of 2-3.
The Cardinal are limping into Tucson, hoping to reverse their fortunes. Meanwhile, the Arizona Wildcats are looking for their first conference win of the year.
Let’s take a look at some Cardinal players who hope to lead Stanford to a win.
Keller Chryst, QB (#10)
2016 Stats: 7-for-18, 63 yds, 0 TD, 1 INT; 11 car, 11 yds, 0 TD
The junior from Palo Alto, California hasn’t had a very productive season so far. However, with Ryan Burns’ struggles, Chryst will get a chance to get Stanford’s season turned around. Last year he had a somewhat decent game against Arizona, going 4-for-4 passing with 39 yards and a touchdown.
Chryst can be a threat tucking the ball and running. Arizona’s defense will have to be wary of that aspect of his game and contain him.
Christian McCaffrey, RB (#5)
2016 Stats: 120 car, 612 yds, 3 TD; 20 rec, 180 yds, 1 TD
Stanford’s do-it-all junior is one of, if not the most, dynamic and explosive running backs in the country. Last year he set an NCAA record for all-purpose yards (3,864) and finished as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He was named to 16 preseason All-Something teams this year and is on the watch list for four annual awards.
Last year, he burned the ‘Cats for 156 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. This year his production has been down a little, partly due to missing a game with an undisclosed injury, partly due to stout defenses and poor offensive line play.
He can line up in the backfield, slot, and Wildcat. Arizona is going to have to stop McCaffrey (including on punt and kickoff returns) or the game could get out of hand like last year.
Michael Rector, WR (#3)
2016 Stats: 21 rec, 257 yds, 1 TD; 3 car, 64 yds, 1 TD
The fifth-year senior from my wife’s hometown of Gig Harbor, Washington is Stanford’s deep threat along the outside. He has sure hands and rarely drops passes, however, this year has been a little bit of a struggle for him.
Last year against Arizona, he was pretty quiet until he had a 42-yard reception and an 18-yard touchdown catch. He finished the game with 72 yards on four catches plus the touchdown. Overall, he had a very consistent year, and that earned him two 2016 preseason All-Pac-12 team honors.
Solomon Thomas, DL (#90)
2016 Stats: 37 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble rec
Thomas is a monster, to be quite frank. He is one of the best defensive linemen in the Pac-12 and shows it week in and week out. Last year, he was awarded All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention honors and was named to the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list for this year. He also made two All-Pac-12 preseason teams.
He leads the Stanford team in tackles (37), TFL (8.5), and sacks (5.5). He gets great push against the line and can easily shed blocks to disrupt plays in the backfield. Arizona’s offensive line has to communicate effectively in order to stop Cardinal defenders such as Thomas from blowing up plays in the backfield.
Peter Kalambayi, LB (#34)
2016 Stats: 20 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks
Kalambayi is an aggressive linebacker that was named to the Butkus Award watch list this year. He also made two preseason All-Pac-12 teams. He plays the run well and can also be an effective pass rusher.
He is a sideline-to-sideline backer that chases plays all over the field. His production has been down this year, but if you consider how many TFL and sacks he has compared to tackles, it shows his playmaking ability. He will look to stuff the Arizona run game on Saturday in order to make the ‘Cats as one dimensional as they were against USC two weeks ago.