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Washington loses to Stanford, and Pac-12 Playoff hopes are now probably cooked

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The Cardinal came to play tonight.

Washington v Stanford Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

No. 9 Washington marched into a weekday road tilt as a favored team on a Friday night. Just like USC a couple weeks ago, they aren’t marching out with a win.

The Huskies fell 30-22 in Palo Alto to Stanford. There’s more than just one win or loss on the line here for the Huskies.

A loss here for Washington meant two things.

The first, is that it throws the Pac-12 North into a tizzy if Washington State wins on Saturday. That’d mean three teams with two losses. The Apple Cup still lies ahead, and if everyone has two losses on rivalry weekend, Stanford would need to take care of business next week before waiting on the the winner of that game. If it’s Wazzu, the Cardinal would lose a tiebreaker. If it’s Washington, the Cardinal would win the tiebreaker due to head-to-head.

It also puts the Pac-12’s Playoff hopes on life support. There has never been a two-loss team in the Playoff; even 2016 Big Ten conference champion Penn State (which had quite the resume) didn’t have enough to get over the hump. With Washington at two losses, and their schedule already derided as being too cupcake-filled, the Huskies losing here isn’t a great look for them or the conference at large. There may be a two-loss conference champ one day. But Washington doesn’t look like a strong enough candidate.

USC, which entered this week at No. 11 and has two explainable losses (at No. 3 Notre Dame and a close one at Washington State, all with injury issues), is now the conference’s best, faint hope.

Stanford’s looked not-so-great so far this season.

It’s been a roller coaster campaign, and the team has largely looked incomplete on the field, save for darkhorse Heisman candidate Bryce Love. But they’ve brought it so far tonight both in the passing game and on defense. Two areas severely lacking at times throughout this year. There wasn’t a ton of things to be optimistic about for Stanford given the fact that Washington’s defense is elite. Even our Stanford blog wasn’t so keen on a good effort from the Cardinal.

Unless Coach Shaw can mix up the play calling and stick to what we do best-in time of possession-and we’re not even sure if Bryce Love is 100%, I suspect Stanford will have a hard time against the best overall defense in the country. I hope I’m wrong and it’s loud as all get-out in Friday night inside Stanford Stadium.

Love battled that injury tonight, powering through it to fuel the team’s offense yet again. He had three touchdowns and 166 yards rushing on 30 carries. But while Washington has struggled on third down, the Cardinal got it done on the most important down in football, converting 11 third downs in 19 tries.

Washington’s defense is great, but struggling to come up with stops at crucial times. Defensive lineman Vita Vea had a crucial penalty on a third down early in the third that turned a penalty into new life for Stanford on a drive in which Love would score his second TD of the day.