Washington State and Stanford figures to be much like last season, a defensive battle. Not the kind of war that LSU and Bama put together and not even like the tooth-and-nail 10-7 win that the Cougs snatched from SC. I see this going down as more of a low-20’s affair, let’s take a look at why:
(Almost) Total Shutdown
WSU is 9th in overall defense, allowing a mere 264 yards per game (good for a top 10 rank of 3.97 yards per play). To this point this is probably the best Mike Leach defense ever and the most impressive Cougar defense since 2004, we’ll have to see if the Cougs can stay ahead of the curve with some great offensive clubs coming to the field. Stanford is 36th at 333 ypg (good for 28th at 4.59 yards per play), which is below their normal standards under David Shaw, or even Jim Harbaugh before that.
The Cougs are 2nd in the nation in passing defense through four games, allowing 118 ypg through the air. 118!!! Only Florida State has been better, only giving up 115 ypg through three games. The Cardinal, meanwhile, are somewhere near the top 25 with an average of 210 yards allowed per game through the skies. But they’re missing their best defender in the secondary for a half, after Ed Reynolds was ejected for a high hit in the 4th quarter against ASU.
Ground and Pound
Shane Skov and the Stanford defense is always pretty stout against the run, and this year is not too much different. However they’re not their once impossible-to-run-on-self, giving up 123 ypg. It’s probably more of a mute point than normal this week as the Cougs are not very threatening with their ground attack at around 50 ypg. Meanwhile the WSU defense has struggled at times against Stanford’s favorite form of football, as the Cougs are giving up nearly 150 ypg and have already given up a 200 yard effort to Auburn this season.
It’s Like Stealing
Washington State has been impressive defensively, tied atop the Pac-12 Conference with 8 forced turnovers, while the Cardinal are tied for 10th with only 4. The Cougs offensively aren’t nearly as good, actually dead last with 11 giveaways while the Card have only given it away 4 times, which is tied for 4th. Nothing necessarily has to give in this game, but it will be mighty interesting to see if WSU can force some turnovers against a non-turnover prone team, while Stanford’s non aggressive “D” tries to pry it away from a mistake ridden Cougar offense.
Cougs are 3rd in the conference, allowing 26.67% on third downs. Cardinal are 6th, allowing 32.61%. Meanwhile WSU is converting only 42% of their offensive 3rd downs, while Stanford is putting up a 61% clip offensively. Something has to give here for sure this weekend.
WSU is giving up 12 points per game (Auburn, USC, Southern Utah, Idaho), Stanford gives up 20.3 (San Jose, ASU, Army). Think about this for a minute; One more game and the Cougs have given up 13 less points overall.