Stanford Cardinal Face Washington State In Critical Pac-12 Showdown

The Stanford Cardinal and Washington State Cougars meet in Pullman with Pac-12 North Division implications on the line.

Washington State may have the smallest venue amongst Pac-12 teams, but the Stanford Cardinal anticipate a loud atmosphere. The noise can undoubtedly become a distraction for a visiting team if the Cougars pounce early and gain a sizable lead.

Noise will not be the only factor Stanford must be ready for up in Pullman though, as the weather is calling for snow during the game.

The last time Stanford played in the snow was all the way back in 1936.

For Coach David Shaw, hopefully, he does a better job preparing for Washington State after barely escaping last week in Corvallis. The last-gasp touchdown from Keller Chryst to JJ Arcega-Whiteside gave Stanford a wild 15-14 win over Oregon State.

As a whole, Stanford played down to a lesser opponent and almost walked away with a loss.

Credit goes to a spirited Oregon State team who played better than their record (1-7).

After Beavers coach Gary Anderson departed, following the team’s loss to USC, Oregon State could have gone in a downward spiral.

Instead though, the team chose to unify and compete until the very end. And in fact, the Beavers controlled the game against the Cardinal until the final minutes.

A fumble by Ryan Nall proved costly as Stanford would then march downfield for the game-winning score.

Stanford was missing an essential element of their offense in Bryce Love who did not play. Love injured his ankle against Oregon and was a game-time decision.

The Cardinal had a week off before playing the Beavers, but Love was apparently not ready for action.

Luck best describes how Stanford managed to defeat Oregon State after a vanilla showcase by the Cardinal offense. Without their dominant running back, Chryst struggled in the passing game, throwing for just 141 yards.

The Cardinal offense appears to be defined by one player who makes the difference. Last season, the absence of Christian McCaffrey affected how Stanford ran their offense. Without Love making his explosive runs, Stanford is a different team.

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Love should be ready this week but will likely be another game-time decision. Washington State allowed over 300 yards rushing last week against Arizona and saw the expectations they had at the beginning of the season fall flat.

Mike Leach’s tenure at Washington State get off to a rocky start as the program was in a rebuild. Patience paid off though, as recent seasons have produced winning records. Leach is getting the personnel for his “air raid” offense and getting significant contributions on the defensive end.

Luke Falk has grown throughout his time as Washington State’s starting quarterback. Out of the current starting quarterbacks in the Pac-12, Falk has the most potential to have a successful NFL career. He currently has thrown for over 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns.

But Falk has faced some adversity in the previous weeks, which altered the direction of the Cougars’ season.

Many predicted the Washington schools would be unbeaten before the two meet in the final game of the season. The winner would win the Pac-12 North and claim a spot in the College Football Playoff.

But, losses to the Cal Bears in Berkeley and Arizona in Tucson have erased any chance of Washington State earning a spot in the CFP.

The Pac-12 will likely not have a representative in teh CFP with Washington also suffering a loss to Arizona State. Washington needs a lot of help to get back in the picture.

Last week, Falk got benched in the second half after a dismal day in which ha had just 93 yards passing and one touchdown. Tyler Hilinski stepped up with 509 yards passing and two touchdowns.

Unfortunately, his four interceptions were too much to overcome in a 58-37 loss.

Despite below average play on the road, the Cougars are 6-0 at home and will hope the noise can disrupt the Cardinal. Coach Leach did not say if Falk would start, but likely will get the call.

Tavares Martin Jr. and Jamal Morrow have been primary targets by Falk. The Stanford secondary took a blow when Alijah Holder went down for the season after suffering an injury in the game against Oregon State.

Stanford’s defensive line, led by Harrison Phillips, must sustain pressure to keep Falk uncomfortable in the pocket. The Cougars do not boast a potent running game as Falk does the offensive damage with his arm.

Chryst will hope Love is available to hand the ball off to. Love’s reliability opens up the passing game for Stanford.

But, the Cougars have playmakers on defense who have delivered in keeping the team unbeaten at home. Jahad Woods and Hercules Mata’afa are two who could make crucial plays throughout the game.

Behind Falk last season, Washington State defeated Stanford 42-16.

A chance to capture the Pac-12 North Division is still at stake for both Stanford and Washington State. A win for Stanford will set up a pivotal showdown next week at home against Washington, with the winner taking the division.

The elements should make for a fun and entertaining contest between the Cardinal and the Cougars.

For Stanford, hopefully, Shaw did his homework and prepared his team for the challenge ahead. If not, expect the boring brand of vanilla offense by Stanford, which could mean kissing a shot at the North division goodbye.