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No. 5 Stanford to begin Pac-12 play Saturday against Arizona State

  • Stanford head coach David Shaw argues a call with an official during the second half of an NCAA college football game against San Jose State in Stanford, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. Stanford won 34-13. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

STANFORD — Since Stanford won the Pac-12 Conference and the Rose Bowl last season, momentum has been building toward a few pivotal points on the schedule.

One of those is now.

After victories over San Jose State and Army, the competition is about to get a whole lot tougher. The fifth-ranked Cardinal (2-0) will begin Pac-12 play against No.23 Arizona State (2-0) on Saturday at Stanford Stadium.

The Cardinal also will host No. 17 Washington, No. 13 UCLA and No. 2 Oregon between away games against Washington State, Utah and Oregon State over the next seven weeks.

“Everybody in our conference has a run of five or six games in a row that you look at and say, 'Whew. Here we go,' ” Stanford coach David Shaw said Tuesday. “And that's to me what makes it hard, and that's to me what makes it special.”

Just how good the Cardinal can be is still somewhat of a mystery.

Stanford rarely routs opponents, even those that are overmatched. The Cardinal grind out games behind a power running game and an opportunistic defense, which makes measuring progress tough — sometimes even for the coaches.

“I feel good, not great,” Shaw said. “There are some gains that we made from Week 1 to Week 2. I don't know that we're operating anywhere close to our capabilities.”

Tyler Gaffney has run for 104 and 132 yards in the first two contests. Kevin Hogan has completed 62 percent of his passes for 395 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. And Ty Montgomery has been every bit the No. 1 wide receiver coaches had hoped, catching 10 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns.

The defense has faced two completely different opponents, from San Jose State's spread passing attack to Army's funky triple-option runners. Stanford has allowed an average of 292 total yards and 16 points in the first two games, smothering ball carriers one minute and missing tackles the next.

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