Having lost the “Big Game” to rival California last week and without a bowl game to worry about, the Stanford football team doesn’t have much to play for — aside from their outgoing seniors — on Saturday night when BYU visits Stanford Stadium.

Kickoff is at 9 p.m. MST — 8 p.m. in Palo Alto, California — and the game will be televised by Fox Sports 1. The Cougars (6-5) are a six-point favorite although they are 0-2 all-time against Stanford.

Cardinal coach David Shaw acknowledged that his program is in “a tough spot right now,” when he spoke to reporters via Zoom on Tuesday, but said those factors won’t take away from his team’s preparation for bowl-bound BYU.

“Battling head to head with BYU, I think they have a great program, have an outstanding head coach. I know multiple people in their administration, including the athletic director. They do things the right way, with the right people, and that is the way we see ourselves as well. So naturally we are going to end up recruiting some of the same people.” — Stanford coach David Shaw

“The only thing we can focus on right now is trying to send our seniors out with a victory in their last game at Stanford Stadium,” Shaw said. “… The focus that I have right now, the focus of our staff and out student-athletes, though this holiday week, is to prepare our team to send our seniors out with a victory.”

The BYU-Stanford game will kick off later than any college football game in the country Saturday night, a fact not lost on Shaw, who delivered a lengthy answer when asked about the late-night kickoff to accommodate television. 

“Well, I usually talk about our TV partners, and I do it in quotes because partners have discussions. Once our TV makes their picks, they slot us where ever they want. And I think it has been horrible,” Shaw said. “… I think it is bad for our student-athletes. I think it is bad for our conference, just the fact that Sundays now, guys just sleep all day, just to recover from either traveling late night or playing late night.”

Shaw said the late kickoff times is something the Pac-12 “needs to look at as we enter into conversations with potential other media partners for our next media deal, and changing these start times, and playing these games in the daytime, playing these games in the early evening and not the late night.”

Shaw acknowledged he’s not concerned with television ratings like the people who are in the decision-making seats.

“I am concerned about the people that I coach and what it does to them, what it does to their families for travel,” he said. “Yeah, I think it is horrible. I know our commissioner is in talks with entities on how to move going forward. I think everything I said would be seconded by everyone else in our conference.”

Recruiting against BYU

The Deseret News asked Shaw about recruiting against BYU and beating the Cougars several times recently for some high-profile recruits who are from Utah or are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For example, Stanford’s starting quarterback, Tanner McKee, served a church mission to Brazil before enrolling in Palo Alto.

“Well for us, it is pretty straightforward. We are recruiting a certain type of young person. … We are looking for high-caliber individual. We are looking for great students and we are looking for very good football players,” he said.

“I have said this over the years: I think the state of Utah doesn’t get its respect for the level of play that happens. It is not just in Salt Lake. It is around the state. You can find a lot of really good football players that have very good grades and are of the caliber of young people that we are looking for. That has been a big thing for us, both in Utah and other states, but in particularly in Utah.”

In July, Stanford beat BYU and others, for two of the top LDS prospects in the country, California tight end Walker Lyons and American Fork pass rusher Hunter Clegg.

“Battling head to head with BYU, I think they have a great program, have an outstanding head coach. I know multiple people in their administration, including the athletic director,” Shaw said. “They do things the right way, with the right people, and that is the way we see ourselves as well. So naturally we are going to end up recruiting some of the same people.”

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A couple hours later, the Deseret News asked BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick why recruiting against Stanford has been difficult for BYU — and the University of Utah, where Roderick previously worked — the past 20 or so years.

“They are very good recruiters. They are hard to beat. A Stanford offer is tough to beat. I mean, who wouldn’t want their kid to go to school there? It is a good place. It is a good school,” Roderick said.

“I mean, they are sort of like us. They zero in on a smaller pool of guys than most schools do. And then go after them.”

Roderick said BYU will probably always “overlap a little bit in recruiting with them, but probably not for quite as many kids as people would think. We go head to head with them on a guy or two each year.”

Roderick said whether that overlap will continue when BYU is in the Big 12 “is an interesting question that remains to be seen.”

Shaw’s thoughts on the 2022 BYU Cougars

Shaw said his film study has shown that the Cougars have evolved throughout the season to fit their personnel.

“Yeah, talented football team. They will take shots down the field on you now. These guys will throw it down the field, play-action pass-wise,” he said. “They have some variance in their offense to try to keep you off-balance.

“Defensively, every week they do something a little bit different — tweaking their front, going from a four down to a three down (and such),” he continued. “Some games it is a lot of single high (safety). Some games it is a lot of two high (safeties). So there is a lot of variance in what they do defensively. … So good team, well-coached team. Good players, good athletes. We have to be at our best to find a way to send our seniors out with a win.”

Will this be McKee’s big moment?

Plenty of quarterbacks have had career days against BYU the past few years, which should come as good news to McKee, who picked the Cardinal over the Cougars after BYU’s woeful 4-9 season in 2017. 

What’s on the line for him Saturday?

“You know, there are a lot of crossovers in pretty much most games that we play. I know it is important to him, to build on (his success),” Shaw said. “He played well in the pocket last week. We (have) talked about building on that, playing even better this week.

“There are going to be familiar faces on both sides. There are backgrounds and history between multiple guys on our team with individuals, but also the area, family members from different areas. Bottom line for us, bottom line for Tanner, is to build on the work that he has put in this year and finish on a high note.”

Cougars on the air

BYU (6-5)

at Stanford (3-8)

Saturday, 9 p.m. MST

Stanford Stadium, Stanford, California

TV: Fox Sports 1

Radio: KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM/1160 AM