Week 9 - Washington State at Stanford

Posted Oct 25, 2012

Week 9 Fearless Prediction – Washington State at Stanford

Washington State (2-5) at Stanford (5-2) Oct. 27, 6:15, Pac-12 Networks

Here's The Deal: Everyone expects the Pac-12 North to be decided when Oregon travels to Oregon State on Nov. 24. Everyone except Stanford.

While the Cardinal has somewhat fallen off the radar, it remains a team ranked No. 17 in the BCS standings, and in the mix to play in the Nov. 30 conference title game. Yeah, the team lost a couple of heartbreakers to Washington and Notre Dame, but it bounced back resoundingly with a 21-3 snuffing of rival Cal in Strawberry Canyon a week ago. And will still get a crack at both the Ducks and the Beavers in November.

Wazzu comes out of its bye week on a four-game losing streak, all against league foes. It's been an eye-opening first season for head coach Mike Leach who's learning firsthand that his rebuilding project in Pullman is a little more complex than even he anticipated. While the Cougars would be pleased to win just one more game this season, the bigger goals for this wayward program won't be measured by wins and losses.

Why Washington State Might Win: Opponents are more likely to beat Stanford through the air than on the ground. That's encouraging news for Leach and his Cougars.

Washington State wants to throw the ball. The Cardinal is just 104th nationally in pass defense. It could be a match made in upset heaven. The Cougars have not been prolific through the air so far in 2012, but the week off gave the staff the time it needs to work on the nuances of the Air Raid. The attack is not without talented pieces, such as senior QB Jeff Tuel and playmaking receivers Marquess Wilson, Gabe Marks, Brett Bartalone and Isiah Myers.

Why Stanford Might Win: The Cardinal is far too physical—on both sides of the ball—for this opponent.

Stanford's edge in this game will be most evident at the point of attack. When it has the ball, it'll bury Washington State's 80th-ranked run defense with a steady wave of carries from Stepfan Taylor. QB Josh Nunes remains a liability, but he can be hidden and limited to 20 throws on this day. Defensively, the Cardinal will be no match for a patchwork Cougars O-line that's allowed more sacks than all but a dozen FBS programs. Tuel is a nice quarterback, but no one will know it if Chase Thomas, Ben Gardner and Trent Murphy are in his face every other time he drops back to throw.

What To Watch Out For: When Nunes does throw the ball, he'll likely be looking in the direction of one of his talented tight ends, either Levine Toilolo or Zach Ertz. The Washington State linebackers are quick and athletic, yet also undersized and vulnerable over the top, which is just one more reason Nunes will try to isolate one of his well-sized targets. The Cardinal would love to diversify in the passing game, but the wideouts are marginal, a situation complicated by a recent knee to WR Ty Montgomery.

What Will Happen: When Stanford flexes its muscles on Saturday afternoon, Washington State won't have the personnel to stand up to the pressure.

The Cardinal will bully the Cougars for all 60 minutes, piling up 250 yards rushing to control the clock and play keep-away from the Washington State offense. When Wazzu does get the ball, its one-dimensional offense will be little threat to a front seven that figures to spend much of the game in the opposing backfield. Provided Stanford remains focused, it ought to be emptying the bench by the end of the third quarter.

CFN Prediction: Stanford 38 … Washington State 16
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Stanford -23.5 O/U: 51
Must Watch Rating (5 – The Girl, 1 – Don't Trust The B In Apt. 23): 2