Sep 21, 2013; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal mascot the tree performs on the sidelines during the third quarter in a game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Stanford Stadium. Stanford won 42-28. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
The Cardinal are sitting at #5 for a reason. Like every team in college football (save for maybe Alabama at times), they’re certainly not unbeatable on any given day/night, up and down Washington chopped the Tree last season in Seattle. But unlike a lot of teams, Stanford sticks to it’s own script for the entire 60 minute stretch and does not feel rushed to force their way back into a game, ever, regardless of opponent. They bully you and then they outsmart you, only to bully you again.
Basically, if you want to beat the Stanford Cardinal, you have to come to them and simply play a better brand of physical football than they do. We saw that when they stomped over Oregon last season. They believe 100% in their system and to a man it seems like they know eventually they’ll put enough points on the board to win and enough wins on the board to head to the BCS.
Realistically, the Stanford fans expect their team to come in and pound Washington State into the turf, just as they did ASU last week. It’s Stanford football these days and it’s the expectation of every #5 team. If they don’t stuff the Cougs into a box early, the Stanford team won’t panic because they expect to slowly mow down the other team and eventually find a way to win the game. Survive and move on seems to be the Stanford team motto and they do it really, really well.
Washington State Cougars
Nov. 10, 2012; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars mascot Butch celebrates a touchdown against the UCLA Bruins during the second half at Martin Stadium. UCLA won 44-36. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
The Cougars are sitting pretty after a 3-1 start, but it’s only the beginning. Going into L.A. and taking down an unidentified Trojan team was really nice, but the afterglow of that game will wear dim quickly if they don’t follow it up with a solid performance (win or lose) here and a victory in Berkeley next week.
Far as identity goes, truthfully the Cougs are still trying to find it. No doubt they know what they want to be (physical, swarming defense, high flying offense), but they’ll have to prove it again and again against the rest of the Pac-12 to be recognized for it. I mean really, who doesn’t want to be that type of team? Only the best at it (against the best) get the moniker bestowed upon them, however.
Realistically for WSU, an upset here isn’t out of the question this season. It was certainly out of the question last season and they nearly went into Palo Alto and did it anyway. But this is a different Cougar squad full of confidence and for the first time in a full decade (dare I say it) SWAG. It IS the #5 team though and everybody knows the Card are going to play their game, so should the Cougars come out of the contest 3-2 they’ll just have to realize their progress and recover immediately.
Win or lose, all of WSU’s goals of improvement to start the season are still in plain view, so it’s really about playing a great game with a top opponent and letting the final score take care of itself.
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