1 No more turnovers. Stanford pressures the quarterback as well as anybody, and that can lead to a lot of hurried throws and bad decisions. The Cougars need senior Jeff Tuel to play like a senior in this one and make the right reads quickly enough to keep WSU’s offense rolling. If the Cougars can get a score on the board in the first quarter, it would do a lot for their confidence.
2 Make Nunes beat you. Stanford’s first-year starting quarterback, Josh Nunes, has improved as the season has progressed. But he’s still not the kind of quarterback who can put a team on his back and lead it to victory. The Cardinal usually rely on stellar running back Stepfan Taylor for that. WSU needs a drastic turnaround from the 318 rushing yards it allowed to Cal.
3 Win field position. The Cardinal’s offense hasn’t been consistently high-scoring this season, so if the Cougars receive a strong performance from punter Michael Bowlin and play mistake-free, they can hang around without putting up a bunch of points. Bowlin’s kicks have been spotty this season, but he has the potential to help WSU’s offense by putting the defense in opportune situations.
4 Protect the QB. Stanford’s 22 sacks this season are tied for eighth most in the country. It probably goes without saying that WSU hasn’t protected the quarterback well this season. Tuel needs time to throw against one of the conference’s saltiest defenses, and if he doesn’t get it, the Cardinal could bury the Cougars early in this one.