By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 12th-ranked Stanford Cardinal return to action this weekend to host the Washington State Cougars in a Pac-10 bout at Stanford Stadium.
The Cardinal were idle this past week, as the team earned some much needed rest following a dramatic last-second 37-35 victory over USC back on October 9th. It was a nice bounce back for Stanford, which had dropped a 52-31 decision to now top-ranked Oregon the prior week. The Cardinal now sit at a healthy 5-1 overall and are still a major player in the Pac-10.
At the opposite end is WSU, which is once again the conference doormat. The Cougars have suffered all six of their losses by double figures and they have dropped each of their past five outings, including a 24-7 setback at nationally-ranked Arizona this past weekend.
“I thought our effort was good,” stated Paul Wulff, who is obviously trying to remain optimistic. “Two weeks in a row we have played a very good football team. We have to keep fighting and compete.”
The Cougars are now 0-4 in the Pac-10 and things aren’t about to get any easier this weekend against Stanford, which owns a 34-25-1 lead in the all- time series following a 39-13 victory in last season’s meeting.
WSU simply couldn’t get going on offense last weekend, as the team managed only 297 total yards and one TD in a loss to Arizona. Furthermore, the Cougars turned the ball over four times and allowed seven sacks as well. The team has now surrendered 29 sacks already and that is simply an astonishing number.
Jeff Tuel has taken nearly every snap, so he has obviously been battered this season. Last weekend, Tuel threw for 257 yards with one TD and two INTs. Despite the consistent pressure. Tuel has held his own, throwing for 1,735 yards with 10 TDs and seven INTs.
Marquess Wilson is Tuel’s favorite target, as he tops the squad with 35 catches and 646 receiving yards. He was effective last weekend, snaring six balls for 131 yards and a TD.
The Cougars have really been exploited on the defensive side of the ball this season, allowing 40.1 ppg and 493.9 total ypg. The unit has surrendered 236.0 ypg and 19 TDs on the ground, while allowing opponents to complete nearly 67 percent of pass attempts.
Last weekend, WSU wasn’t all that bad on defense, but that was largely due to Arizona’s starting QB being knocked from the game early in the second quarter. The Cougars limited Arizona to 352 total yards, while tallying six sacks. Travis Long was one of three players with a pair of sacks in the defeat and he paces WSU with eight TFLs and four sacks for the year.
Nate Whitaker missed an important extra-point midway through the fourth quarter, but atoned for his mistake with a 30-yard field as time expired to lift Stanford to a 37-35 win over USC.
The kick was set up by a seven-play, 62-drive that was led by QB Andrew Luck, who finished the game with 285 yards and three TDs on an efficient 20-of-24 passing.
“People that have doubted Andrew Luck do not know football,” Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. “What more can a quarterback do in a game?”
Luck has been just terrific for the Cardinal this season, completing 65.7 percent of his tosses for 1,538 yards with 16 TDs and four INTs. He is also dangerous with his legs, ranking second on the team with 242 yards and two TDs on the ground.
Doug Baldwin leads the WRs with 23 catches for 353 yards and five TDs, while Stepfan Taylor paces the ground attack, which is averaging 210.5 ypg, with 482 yards and three scores. Both were effective against USC, as Baldwin reeled in eight passes for 98 yards and two scores, while Taylor rushed for 104 yards and a TD on 23 carries.
The Cardinal defense got off to a fast start, but has struggled over the last two games, allowing a combined 87 points to Oregon and USC. Last game, Stanford was shredded for 498 total yards by USC, which gained 390 of those yards and three TDs through the air.
Both the run and pass defense are a concern right now for the Cardinal, as the team is giving up 157.2 ypg on the ground and 200.8 ypg through the air. The unit has recorded 13 takeaways and 15 sacks, so that has helped balance some of the yards surrendered. Chase Thomas, who had five stops last game, has done a little of everything for this unit, posting 28 tackles, 3.5 sacks and an INT.
Stanford is the clear choice in this one and it should have no trouble in what will likely end up being a rout of WSU this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Stanford 44, Washington State 14