1 Five guys get tough. WSU’s offensive line had plenty of frustrating games last season, but none more so than when it yielded 10 sacks in a 24-17 loss at Stanford. The Cougars are, by all accounts, a much improved group up front this season, but this could be the toughest defensive front they face all year – six of the Cardinal’s front seven players are seniors or fifth-year seniors. Keeping quarterback Connor Halliday off the turf will be key to establishing an offensive rhythm.
2 No special teams mistakes. Stanford manhandled Arizona State a week ago, but the Sun Devils made things pretty difficult on themselves by botching a handful of special teams plays. The Cougars can’t afford similar mistakes against a mature, disciplined team that feasts on those opportunities.
3 Make Kevin Hogan throw. Stanford’s rushing offense is well-publicized, and deservedly so. The Cardinal are one of the last remaining smashmouth teams in college football, and their physical attitude is reflected in their rushing totals. And while Kevin Hogan is a solid option for Stanford under center, the Cougars should be in decent shape if they can force third-and-long and make the Cardinal rely on its passing game.
4 Better decisions. Halliday has thrown 10 touchdowns through four games, but his eight interceptions haven’t done much to quiet his critics. Stanford is a difficult team to beat under any circumstance, but especially so if it wins the turnover battle. That’s going to be a crucial statistic for the Cougars, and it starts with Halliday, who has thrown at least two interceptions in each of WSU’s games this season. Four have come at or beyond the goal line.