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SEATTLE (AP) — Under different circumstances, Washington coach Chris Petersen would have already coached his first Pac-12 Conference game.
Following the 2010 season when Jim Harbaugh made the jump to the NFL, Stanford was in need of a head coach. And with Boise State at the height of its success under Petersen, it was a no-brainer for the Cardinal to reach out.
"I had a quick conversation with those guys and that was really it," Petersen said this week.
Stanford was not alone among big programs reaching out to speak with Petersen during his years of winning at Boise State. But it makes for an interesting subplot to Saturday's Pac-12 opener for the Huskies (4-0), who are hosting 16th-ranked Stanford (2-1, 0-1) in Petersen's first conference game.
Entertaining the idea of going to Stanford may have been the closest Petersen ever came to leaving Boise State before accepting the Washington job last December. He saw similar qualities in Washington that he did in his brief conversations with Stanford.
"That's one of the reasons I'm here at Washington. This university is about a lot of the same things — an elite education, being able to attract really good kids here and play really good football," Petersen said.
What Petersen is still trying to figure out is the personality of his team, which may have a perfect record but was far from impressive getting there. Last week against Georgia State seemed to typify the Huskies' first month with Petersen in charge. Washington slept through the first half and trailed 14-0 at the break before scoring 45 unanswered points. The final score matched the expected blowout but how the Huskies got there was not what Petersen wanted.
Stanford has similar uncertainties and is already playing from behind in the Pac-12 North race after an early loss to USC. The Cardinal looked impressive in blowouts of UC Davis and Army but struggled against USC. The power running game of previous seasons has yet to materialize with the Cardinal using a rotation or running backs. Having four new starters on the offensive line has contributed to Stanford's inconsistency.
Stanford coach David Shaw sees the similarities between the Cardinal and Huskies.
"Moments of absolute dominance on both sides of the ball, and moments where it's not quite all together. It honestly right now sounds like a lot of really good teams around the nation," Shaw said. "I don't think there's a truly dominant team in college football right now. I think there's a lot of good football teams that have moments of not playing great."
Things to watch for as the Huskies and Cardinal meet:
TY'S TIME: Stanford WR Ty Montgomery nearly beat Washington by himself a year ago. Montgomery returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, caught a 39-yard TD pass from Kevin Hogan and returned another kickoff in the second half 64 yards to set up what turned out to be the game-winning score. Montgomery finished with 290 all-purpose yards against the Huskies.
This season, Montgomery already has touchdowns rushing, receiving and on punt returns, a new addition to his repertoire this season.
STOP THE RUN: Washington has flustered Stanford's power running attack the past two seasons, most notably the last time the Cardinal visited Seattle and were held to 68 yards rushing. That's the fewest yards Stanford's had on the ground since 2007. Albeit not against the strongest competition, the Huskies are holding opponents to just 2.9 yards per rush so far this season.
QB WATCH: Neither Washington's Cyler Miles nor Stanford's Kevin Hogan have been dominant QBs thus far. Miles has done most of his damage with his feet against lesser competition and has yet to pass for 200 yards in his career. Hogan threw for nearly 300 yards against USC but fumbled in the closing seconds. Hogan could be set for a big day against Washington's leaky secondary.
SHELTON SACKS: A defensive tackle getting seven sacks in a season is great. Washington's Danny Shelton has seven through four games and leads the country. Teammate Hau'oli Kikaha is right behind Shelton with six. The Huskies are tied for the national lead with 19 sacks.
NEW SURROUNDINGS: Stanford is leaving The Farm for the first time this season, while Washington is closing out a string of four straight home games. The schedule was set up nearly the same for Stanford as it was two seasons ago, when the Cardinal played their first three games at home, had a bye then traveled to Washington. Stanford lost 17-13 to the Huskies that season.
Starting with the trip to Seattle, Stanford will play three of its next four on the road — at Washington, at Notre Dame and at Arizona State.