Weeks 1-4 brought us into a new era of college football, some unexpected teams are rising from their conference depths and week 5 is sure to test young and rising teams the same. Conference play is finally fully underway and there are many questions to be answered in each respective conference.
Week 5 will push a few teams further then they have been pushed all year. All the drama, upsets and heartbreak we’ve come to love in college football, will be on full display this week. The Washington State Cougars were not expected to be a part of that discussion come week 5, yet here they are. Let’s take a look at what has lead up to this game.
Stanford has done exactly what the nation expected of them to this point in the season. Opening up their season late in week 2 they took down SJSU in a dominating effort. In week 3 they gave some of their fans a scare in the first half while leaving Army around in the game too long, but they still came out on top. Week 4 is when the Cardinal really positioned themselves as a national powerhouse (as if the wins and overall record in recent years didn’t do that already) by destroying an Arizona State team who many thought had a shot at winning the Pac-12 South and even maybe winning this game. Stanford has looked beyond impressive on both sides of the ball and have etched themselves in a top 5 spot. Now many would have said last week was their biggest test until Oregon but recent events have changed such opinions for a few people.
Washington State started the season with cautious expectations. Last year the Cougar faithful were set on going to a bowl with a big name coach taking over the program and the 2011 campaign being so promising. The Cougs showed just how far down the program had dropped though as Mike Leach took over the program and implemented his values and system onto a resistant team. The year ended in a devastating 3-9 record.
Many believed after last year that this program was headed the same direction in 2013, causing the national spotlight to shine elsewhere, the Palouse was forgotten. What a mistake! Washington State opened up this season as tough as any team in the nation traveling to Alabama where they took on the Auburn Tigers in SEC country. As a 14 point underdog, Washington State came out and showed they had changed things completely around and the air raid was at full speed in the crimson and gray.
The game was a hard fought battle but the Cougars came up just 1 TD short with 2 chances to win the game. Big, unforced plays ruined the Cougars opener but life was finally showing at this program. Week 2 the Cougars finally turned the corner on defense as they took on the (then #25) USC trojans in the coliseum. The Cougars shocked the nation not allowing a pass play to go further then 8 yards all night and defeating the Trojans 10-7. Washington State didn’t look back and with a new energy flowing in the entire program top to bottom the Cougars came out and dominated Southern Utah 45-10, establishing the #1 pass defense in the Nation. The next week the Cougars found themselves exploding with offensive and defensive power destroying their geographical rivals the Idaho Vandals 42-0.
Nobody saw this type of performance coming, no one expected WSU to be a threat, yet here they are. So what does this all mean for Week 5?
Let’s take a look at both teams and see what the Cougar trends are this week.
What Stanford brings:
Stanford has become known as the big dominating force in the West. Really it’s quite scary when you think about the size and physicality of this team. The first thing I think of is a dominating front 7. Stanford has been dominating the line of scrimmage for several years on defense, this is a team who is hard to run on at all (hence why Oregon struggled with them last year).
Follow that up with an offensive attack that’s like getting punched in the face repeatedly and then when you finally cover up your face you catch an uppercut in the gut, it’s not pretty folks. It takes a strong physical defense to handle Stanford’s game. Now they’ve even made it more difficult with Kevin Hogan playing like the elite quarterback he is, complimented by Ty Montgomory who is an explosive receiver always good for a big game. It really is unfair. Stanford is impressive all the way around.
So what are the Cougar trends this week?
Offensively attack early and often with success. Stanfords star safety, Ed Reynolds, is out for the first half of this game so some deep shots to Dom Williams and some post routes to Gabe Marks will open up the game. Most teams you want to run at them or throw short so the defense comes up and toughens the box but Stanford is the opposite. You have to spread them out early so your short game is successful later on in the game when their star comes back. The only way this will work is if Connor Halliday is on point to start the game. He has struggled early in the last couple games but then really turned it on, this week he has to start on point.
Defensively, do what we do. We have been playing lights out on all sides of defense, all we have to do is be physical and shut down Ty Montgomory. I believe our defense can stop the run game of Stanford enough to make the big picture rely on more passing and that’s where our defensive backs come in. We are good on defense we just have to have another good game.
Last trend. We have to find a way to win the turnover battle. We are the worst team in the Pac-12 when it comes to turnovers, Stanford is one of the best. That has to flip this game, even if we don’t force that many turnovers, we have to take care of the ball. Stanford is way too good to give extra opportunities to.
This is going to be a great late night game, it’s on ESPN so it’s a great chance for WSU to get on the National map this year. I think it will come down to the last drive.