Luck leaving coach at a loss for words

Stanford head coach David Shaw isn't tired of handing out compliments to quarterback Andrew Luck. He's just running out of them.

"Every week I have to answer Andrew Luck questions, and I'm running out of words," Shaw said. "I'm running out of things to say. We don't want to build him up too much. But the problem is, there's not a lot of flaws. There's not a lot of things that you want to change or that he needs to get better at. That's the difference between him and every other quarterback that I was with."

For those who follow the Cardinal relatively closely, you know by now that Luck has elevated his game this season, adding play-calling to his already outstanding résumé. And to hear Shaw talk about it, he's nearly perfect.

"He's on a clip right now through the season of about 98-99 percent," Shaw said, when asked how often Luck makes the right call. "He's only missed a couple. Which is why we've been so effective. We're running the plays versus the looks that we want to run the plays versus."

To hear Luck talk about it, you'd think it was as easy as ordering a cup of coffee.

"You process the play in your mind and how it fits with the scheme they are showing you," Luck said.

Considering the dozens of formations the Cardinal can run -- depending on the personnel in the game at the time -- and the dozens of formations the opposing defense can show, it's a lot more impressive than Luck makes it sound.

"You get tired of saying 'Nice throw,'" Shaw said. "You get tired of saying 'Good read.' You get tired of saying 'Nice job in the pocket.' 'Nice job escaping.' 'Good decision.' And he gets tired of hearing it. I try not to compliment him too much. You just move on, which is great because it fits with his mentality.

"His thing is what's the next play, what do I need to be ready for? Don't pat me on the back. Tell me what the next thing is coming down the pipe. What's the next blitz look? What do I need to prepare for?"

Quarterbacks are in the spotlight this week with Stanford traveling to USC to face the Matt Barkley-led Trojans. Stanford already boasts a tremendous running game -- and USC's started to develop last week against Notre Dame.

That's going to be important because both quarterbacks excel in play-action*. Luck is completing 77.4 percent of his passes off play-action, while Barkley completes 76.9 percent. The two quarterbacks have combined for 18 touchdowns to one interception off the run fake (10 for Luck, eight and one interception for Barkley).

And neither is particularly rattled by the blitz. Since the start of the 2010 season, Luck has completed 60 percent of his passes against the blitz with a 15-3 touchdown ration. Barkley is better, with a 60.8 completion percentage and a 22-3 ratio.

Barkley said this will be a "special" matchup with him and Luck on the field at the same time, though both quarterbacks have downplayed the battle of potential first-round picks.

Meanwhile, Shaw just keeps running out of things to say about his guy.

"He's like a vitamin, once a day he does something that makes you say 'Wow,'" Shaw said. "And it's been every day for four years. Then you move on to the next play. And then you look at it on film that night and say 'Oh, my gosh.' Moving to his left, throwing 30 yards across his body, it's stuff that other human beings can't do. He does it and goes back to the huddle and says 'What's the next play?'."

*Play-action and blitz stats courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information.