September 24, 2013 in Sports

First Look: Washington State vs. Stanford

 

Time: 7 p.m. Saturday, CenturyLink Field, Seattle

TV: ESPN

Records: WSU (3-1, 1-0 in Pac-12); Stanford (3-0, 1-0 in Pac-12)

Last time: Stanford defeated WSU in Stanford, 24-17, in 2012

The line: Stanford by 10.5

What it means for WSU: Even if WSU’s players won’t say it, this has the feel of WSU’s biggest game of the season. Especially if the Cougars win. The Cougars are still searching for a signature victory under coach Mike Leach – not that he believes in such things – and this would certainly qualify. Beating a physical, disciplined team like Stanford would truly prove that WSU is ready to compete in the Pac-12. And it would likely land them in the Top 25. These teams played a 7-point game a year ago, so anything other than improvement upon that result would be considered a disappointment by the Cougars.

What it means for Stanford: The Cardinal geared up for a big game against Arizona State last weekend, and came away with a 42-28 victory more lopsided than the score indicates. And next week, Stanford hosts No. 16 Washington in a game that could also have major implications in the Pac-12 North division race. WSU is a formidable obstacle in the meantime, and this is a game the Cardinal can’t afford to overlook – though with the Cougars 3-1 and having already upset USC, it doesn’t seem likely Stanford will do that.

Key matchup: WSU’s offensive line vs. Stanford’s front seven

A quick glance at Stanford’s depth chart reveals a startling truth: the youngest member of Stanford’s starting defensive front seven is James Vaughters, and he is a junior. Everyone else is either a senior or a fifth-year senior. And this is a group that sacked WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel 10 times last season, one of the reasons the Cardinal were able to fend off the Cougars’ upset bid despite being fairly limited offensively. How much has WSU truly improved up front? This game should tell plenty in that regard.

Christian Caple

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