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First look: Stanford at Washington State

Time: 3 p.m. Saturday.

TV: FSN

Last season’s records: WSU (2-11, 1-8 in Pac-10); Stanford (5-7; 4-5)

Last time: Stanford defeated WSU, 58-0, at Stanford last season.

The line: Stanford by 16.5

What it means for WSU

After all the talk of offseason gains, the Cougars have to show a fire on the field. Time after time last season, when the game started to slip away, WSU backed down. That can’t happen in Paul Wulff’s second year. “As long as we keep driving forward,” Wulff said last week, “with their mentality, stay positive and just keep improving, every day, each week, there’s no question we’re going to win games. We’ll beat some opponents people think we shouldn’t beat.”

What it means for Stanford

The Cardinal, in their third year under coach Jim Harbaugh, expect to gain a bowl berth. But they’d better get their six wins in their first eight games, because the final four include Oregon, at USC, Cal and Notre Dame, all losses last season. If the Cardinal don’t win Saturday, it could be a long season.

Key matchup

Stanford’s offensive line vs. WSU’s defensive front.

The Cardinal have yet to announce a starting group, but it’s possible two redshirt freshmen could take spots held last year by All-Pac-10 tackle Ben Muth and center Alex Fletcher. The line dominated the Cougars last season – Stanford rushed for 344 yards – and most of the Pac-10, propelling 6-foot-1, 237-pound running back Toby Gerhart to a school single-season record 1,136 rushing yards. The line will try to protect redshirt freshman Andrew Luck (6-4, 235), playing in his first collegiate game. WSU has rebuilt its defensive front seven, with new starters possible at six spots, including true freshman Travis Long (6-4, 247) at defensive end and Darren Markle (6-1, 224) at middle linebacker. Seniors Kevin Kooyman (6-6, 260), at defensive end, and Andy Mattingly (6-4, 249), at strongside linebacker, are expected to lead this young group.

Vince Grippi

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

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