SEATTLE (AP) — Even though the connection was made by NFL draft gurus over a year ago, Stanford's Andrew Luck and Washington's Jake Locker didn't get to know each other until this summer, when the Pac-10's stable of quarterbacks were being promoted on the East Coast.
So far, Luck is the only one consistently matching the hype.
The question of who will eventually make the better pro quarterback will receive a head-to-head evaluation Saturday when Washington hosts No. 13 Stanford.
Through the first half of the season, Luck is handily winning the debate. His Cardinal (6-1, 3-1) are off to their best start in 40 years, ranked for the 13th consecutive week and can remain on the heels of No. 1 Oregon in the Pac-10 with a third straight win in Seattle.
Oh, and Luck leads the conference in total offense, is second in pass efficiency and fifth in passing yards per game.
"He's really talented, really disciplined. He's a very productive quarterback and puts his team in a position to win every week," Locker said of his Stanford counterpart.
For more than 12 months, draft pundits have debated where Luck, a redshirt sophomore who could leave Stanford after this season, and Locker would land when they enter the NFL.
Before the season, most believed Locker would go ahead of Luck if the two are available in the 2011 draft. But Locker's play has followed that of his bipolar Washington team, with moments where his incredible athleticism and talent shines, and other times where heads shake.
In Washington's three wins, Locker has thrown for 10 touchdowns and just one interception with at least 250 yards passing. In the four losses for the Huskies (3-4, 2-2), Locker is barely completing 50 percent of his passes, with four touchdowns and three interceptions.
Meanwhile, Luck is the picture of consistency. He's thrown 19 touchdowns to just five interceptions — although all five have come in the last four weeks. He's completing nearly 67 percent of his passes and throwing for nearly 250 yards per game. His passer rating of 165.4 trails only USC's Matt Barkley in the Pac-10 and is seventh nationally.
And, while not considered in the same category as Locker as a running quarterback, Luck is the Cardinal's second-leading rusher with 253 yards.
"We've got to be able to generate our pass rush against those guys to take advantage of our opportunities in one-on-one pass-rushing settings," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. "I think it's twofold: One, stout against the run, and two, we've got to be able to create pressure on Andrew Luck. He's a talented guy."
While most of the attention Saturday will be on the two quarterbacks, Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor could be in for a big day. Last year, Toby Gerhart rumbled through Washington's defense for 200 yards rushing in the Cardinal's 34-14 victory.
And the Huskies' ability to stop the run this year isn't any better.
Washington's giving up 202 yards per game on the ground, a stat somewhat eschewed by the 383 yards allowed to Nebraska last month. But the Huskies followed up by allowing 298 to USC and 234 yards and four rushing touchdowns last week to Arizona.
Taylor is coming off a season-best 142 yards and two touchdowns last week against Washington State. Washington's also had to rely on plenty of youth on defense to make up for injuries.
"I looked on the field one snap (last) Saturday and we had four true freshman on the field together running around, so we're living with some of those growing pains," Sarkisian said. "For some of our guys it's getting used to playing more and we've got to fight this injury bug. We've got some guys nicked up on the defensive side of the ball that can cause some issues for us."
Locker has been banged up too, hampered by a bruised thigh and sore ribs. He could get help in avoiding hits if running back Chris Polk can have a big day. But he needs more than the 14 carries he got last week against Arizona, and only once has he carried more than 20 times.
"The toughest thing is the amount of things they do schematically. There's more this year," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. "This is a very resilient team that fights every play."