Following an impressive performance from its defense in Week 2 against Southern Cal, the Stanford Cardinal approach Week 3-week UC-Davis with some caution tape around itself. Their workhorse, Bryce Love, won’t be available; therefore giving back-ups Cameron Scarlett and Trevor Speights some much-needed snaps. Though the running game in Week 3 will take a hit, that means J.J. Arcega-Whiteside might repeat his Week 1 performance against San Diego State.
Unlike last year, UC-Davis is showing a surprising amount of promise in the Big Sky Conference. Over the course of its first two weeks, the Aggies recorded only 52 points. They’re nearly doubling that number two-fold with the help from QB Jake Maier and RB Ulonzo Gilliam, amassing 98 points via wins over San Diego and San Jose State.
RB Bryce Love
Stats vs. UC-Davis: N/A
Player notes: DNP
Draft stock: Mid-first
Week 4 preview vs. Oregon: Bryce Love needs to not fix what’s not broken. That means running to the outside to avoid Oregon’s Jalen Jelks and Justin Hollins, who combine for team-leading seven tackles for loss and three-and-a-half sacks.
Love was inactive for UC-Davis and his return for Week 4 is questionable. If available, then his strategy will rely heavily on overloaded personnel. Then again, it’s the same Oregon defense that allowed over 100 rushing yards to Bowling Green State.
TE Kaden Smith
Stats vs. UC-Davis: 6 receptions, 68 yards
Player notes: Kaden Smith is quickly becoming a favorite target of K.J. Costello, who targeted Smith almost a dozen times against UC-Davis. In fact, Smith would’ve recorded a 100-yard game if two or three balls hadn’t sailed over his head. Whether that’s the fault or not of QB pressures or miscommunication, the Smith-Costello roommate connection is showing and giving Smith one of the better seasons at tight end since Zach Ertz in 2012.
Draft stock: Early fifth
Week 4 preview vs. Oregon: Against Oregon in Week 4, Smith will likely be used as a blocker in either the Ace or heavy formation, where more blockers equal better pass protection and run blocking. Then again, Oregon doesn’t have a very impressive secondary, which surrendered over 200 yards passing and three pass touchdowns in Week 1 against Bowling Green State. Against San Jose State, four receivers averaged over 10 yards per reception without including a six-reception, one-touchdown performance by Spartans TE Josh Oliver.
OG Nate Herbig
Player notes: Littered with penalties throughout all four quarters and turnovers in Q1, the Stanford offense needed some mojo from Nate Herbig. After all, Costello rushed for -12 yards and tossed two interceptions, but those had no correlation to Herbig. While the rest of the offensive front has yet to establish their own identities, Herbig’s consistency and football intelligence are his best allies heading into a week against a dominant Oregon Ducks defensive interior.
Draft stock: Early second
Week 4 preview vs. Oregon: Despite the three cupcake games to open its season, Oregon will want to be very bullish against Love and Costello. It’ll be Herbig’s prerogative to stay squared up against his opponent, keep his hips loose and prevent any penetration by Oregon’s linebackers up the gaps. As it goes, this may be a rehearsal for Stanford and Herbig to prep for an away series at Notre Dame and Arizona State.
MLB Bobby Okereke
Stats vs. UC-Davis: 2 tackles
Player notes: Negating his Week 1 and Week 2 performances, Bobby Okereke – at a statistical standpoint – wasn’t himself in Week 3 against a surprisingly good passing team (700 yards in two games) from Sacramento. Despite Okereke’s numbers struggles in Week 3, he halted UC-Davis’ rush game to 50 yards, a season-low for opponents.
Draft stock: Mid-fourth
Week 4 preview vs. Oregon: There’s no Royce Freeman at Oregon for this year’s match-up, but Okereke will still need to handle Tony Brooks-James. Also unaccounted for last year against Oregon, was Justin Herbert, who seems to average four or five passing touchdowns each game. Though Okereke had a quiet game against UC-Davis, he will be a pivotal player to stop whatever run design Oregon has in store for Stanford.
Stats vs. UC-Davis: 6 tackles
Player notes: It’d be a hardcore debate to say that this year’s edition of the Stanford Cardinal secondary, which includes Alijah Holder, is earning more praise than Love at running back. Leaning on their Week 2 performance against Southern Cal, Holder and Co. stripped the life out of UC-Davis’ passing game twice. PFF College noted that Holder not only saw a lot of repetition in man-to-man coverage, but he single-handedly lowered Aggies QB Jake Maier‘s rating to sub-60.
Draft stock: Early fourth
Week 4 preview vs. Oregon: For the most part, Oregon may not have a lot to offer at the receiver position, but then again, why has Herbert thrown nine touchdowns over two weeks? The answer is in ball distribution, so if there’s one or two guys Holder needs to lock down, it’s Johnny Johnson and Taj Griffin. They’re both extremely elusive and require workhorses in the opposing secondary.
All stats provided by College Football Reference.