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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

WSU at Stanford

Time: 3:15 p.m. Saturday, Stanford Stadium

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Records: WSU (2-5, 0-4 in Pac-12); Stanford (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12)

Last week: WSU had a bye. Stanford defeated California, 21-3.

Last time: Stanford defeated WSU in Pullman, 44-14, in 2011

The line: Stanford by 23

What it means for WSU: Quite simply, the Cougars are running out of chances to prove they can turn things around this season under new coach Mike Leach. The offense hasn’t clicked the way most thought it would – senior quarterback Jeff Tuel will likely be back at the helm this week after Connor Halliday started the team’s last five games – and an at-times promising defense got run over by California the last time WSU played. Cougars players still swear they’re holding onto hope of making a bowl game. An upset this weekend would be a good start.

What it means for Stanford: On paper, WSU looks like another team the Cardinal should be able to push around up front. And Saturday’s game is the first of what should be the two easiest games on the Cardinal’s schedule, as Stanford travels to lowly Colorado next week before games against unbeaten Oregon State and Oregon. This is a take-care-of-business game for Stanford, which has lost at home just once since 2009.

Key matchup: Stepfan Taylor vs. Anyone trying to tackle him.

WSU safety Deone Bucannon said he thinks Taylor is the best running back the Cougars will see this season. That’s probably not an exaggeration. Taylor ranks 13th in the nation with 120.9 rushing yards per game, and plays in an offense that wants to run, run and run some more. And the Cougars didn’t defend the run very well against Cal on Oct. 13, when the Bears romped for 318 rushing yards. Night-and-day improvement will be needed to contain Taylor.

Christian Caple

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

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