Last week, the Stanford Cardinal had arguably their best showing of the young 2013 season, defeating a ranked Arizona State squad 42-28 in their conference opener. At 3-0, the Cardinal will now have to move past Washington State to remain undefeated.
The Cougars will not exactly lie down against a ranked team like Stanford as they may have three or four years ago. At 3-1, Mike Leach and his Washington State squad are off to a great start, and only a seven-point loss to Auburn has kept them from entering the game undefeated.
USC learned about the Cougars’ surprising prowess the hard way, falling 7-10 in a loss to Washington State three weeks ago. It is imperative that Stanford enters the game without any sense of complacency.
The Cardinal posted 240 rushing yards and three scores on the ground last week against a very strong Sun Devils front seven. Based on that success, Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson will likely have a strong showing on the ground against a Washington State team that has allowed an average of 146 yards per game on the ground this year.
However, the passing game is a different story. The Cougar secondary, led by veteran safety Deone Bucannon, currently ranks first in the Pac-12 in passing defense, allowing only 118 passing yards per game in 2013. It should be noted, though, that Washington State has yet to face a truly potent offense.
Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan has moved the ball effectively thus far, but he has yet to truly take over a game. He has eclipsed 200 yards only once (207 against San Jose State), and has completed only 62 percent of his throws. These numbers are not bad, but it is imperative that he establishes the passing game early to keep this Cougar defense on its heels.
On the other side of the ball, Stanford’s defensive backfield will have a tough test of its own. Going up against a
tandem of sophomore receiver studs, made up of Gabe Marks and Dom Williams who have combined for six scores in 2013, safety Jordan Richards will need to contain Washington State’s playmakers, especially with Ed Reynolds suspended for the first half of the game.
The front seven does not have much to worry about on the ground, as Mike Leach favors a pass-happy attack. Still, they will need to put pressure on Connor Halliday in order to contain the strong Cougar aerial attack.
After nearly falling to Washington State at home last season, escaping with a 24-17 win, Stanford will be sure to avoid underestimating its opponent this weekend.
The game kicks off at 7:00 p.m. PT, so be sure to tune in.