Despite the Cougars’ two defeats to non-conference foes to open the season, the path to a Pac-12 title is still open to them if they can beat Stanford on the road.
The Cougars find themselves in position to take control of the Pac-12 North if they can continue the Cardinal’s misery tonight. Stanford is reeling from a beatdown at Husky Stadium last week, but they return home against a team that struggled against the likes of Boise State and Eastern Washington this evening at 7:30 p.m.
However, the Cougars’ thumping of Oregon the day after the Dawgs’ domination of Stanford, was a statement game for Washington State, which evened its record with a 51-33 win over the Ducks.
They now find themselves in a unique position. The Cougars can avenge their heartbreak on Halloween last year to the Cardinal by kicking the Trees while they’re down.
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Stanford’s lack of depth in their secondary was exposed by John Ross and company in Seattle. But it’s hard to imagine a well-coached team like Stanford would have a similarly poor performance at home for head coach David Shaw.
Washington is bursting with talent on the defensive side of the ball, but they also showed the Cougars how to defeat the Cardinal’s grind-it-out offense: stop Christian McCaffrey and force more throws into coverage. Cougar head coach Mike Leach knows this, of course, and he’s gearing his air-raid offense to make it rain on the Cardinal’s defense. His goal is clear–force Stanford into a shootout to defend their home field.
Cougars’ quarterback Luke Falk is fourth in the nation in passing, averaging 373.8 yards per game while completing 73 percent of his passes. If the Cougars can run up the score, it’s unlikely that the one-dimensional Cardinal will be able to keep up. Stanford is still mourning the loss of Outland Trophy-winning guard Joshua Garnett to the San Francisco 49ers.
If the Cougars can get pressure and get in the way of McCaffrey a few times, they could score just enough to squeak out a much-needed win on the road and send their past Halloween nightmare foes toward the bottom of the conference. The key will be whether or not Mike Leach can devise a plan to let Falk exploit the Cardinal defense the way Jake Browning did. But a regrouped Stanford defense at home will make this game much closer than Stanford’s loss to Washington.