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Pac-12 Game Preview: Stanford vs. Washington State


The Stanford Cardinal had some trouble dispatching the Washington State Cougars a year ago – eventually winning 24-17 – and with an improved defense and an effective air raid attack, the Cougs have sharpened their claws for another competitive showdown against the Cardinal today.

While Washington State has steadily improved on the offensive side of the ball under second-year head coach Mike Leach, it has not been as well known for its defense. However, that may be changing as the Cougars are currently riding a three-game winning streak (longest since 2006), in which they’ve limited opponents to 17 points or fewer. The Cougars will hope to continue that defensive success against the Cardinal, whom they held to just 256 yards of total offense in last year’s bout.

Conversely, Stanford – known primarily for its stout defensive front in recent years – has struggled at times during its 3-0 start, especially in the second half of last week’s game against Arizona State, in which the Cardinal allowed 28 points while almost giving up their large lead.

Offensively, both teams have showed strength – scoring more than 30 points per game – but they’ve moved the ball in vastly different ways. Stanford prefers to chew up turf on the ground – rushing for more than 200 yards per game – while Washington State has avoided the run game almost entirely, passing for more than 325 yards per contest (17th in the nation). Each squad will attempt to establish the tempo and the game it wants to play and whichever team is successful will likely end up on the winning end.

Playing the game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle will basically serve as a home game for the Cougars and they’ll certainly need to feel at ease considering that Stanford is a team that thrives on opponents’ mistakes. The Cardinal are currently enjoying a nation-best 27-game streak in which they’ve forced at least one turnover and if they’re able to create some Wash. St. errors, the game could get away from the “home team.”

Odds makers are giving the Cardinal eight points today in what should be a highly competitive Pac-12 game. Considering the Cougars are stronger than they were on both sides of the ball this time last year and considering the Cardinal have proven to be vulnerable, Washington State should be able to keep things close and cover +8 today, even in defeat.

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