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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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2-Minute drill: Stanford at Washington State

Keys for Washington State against Stanford:

1 Force Stanford to pass. When the Cardinal can rely on the running game, it wins. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is 13-1 when he throws 20 passes or fewer. While Hogan is a fine quarterback and he has capable receivers, the rushing game is where Stanford’s offense is most comfortable. Denying Stanford the ground game early is also the best way to prevent Heisman Trophy candidate Christian McCaffrey from getting the ball.

2 Rise up on third down. Stanford is the second best team in the conference when it comes to converting on third down, moving the chains 46.2 percent of the time. Meanwhile, the Cougars are the Pac-12’s least likely team to get off the field in those situations, giving up a first down 46.3 percent of the time. The Cardinal offense is particularly effective on third-and-short when its powerful offensive line can push the defense back beyond the first down marker, getting a first down 88 percent of the time when it has two yards or fewer remaining. It will be key for the WSU defense to get off the field on third down to give its offense more opportunities and to give itself more time to rest.

3 Take chances defensively. The Stanford offense is particularly methodical. Other than the occasional long run by McCaffrey and Barry Sanders Jr., Stanford’s touchdowns come at the end of long, clock-consuming drives. According to Football Study Hall, the Cardinal rank 100th nationally in isoPPP, which measures the effectiveness of successful play. Because Stanford is going to run a lot of plays each drive, the Cougars will have additional opportunities to intercept a pass or force a fumble, and they have to take advantage of them.

4 No major special teams errors. Stanford is a fantastic team on both sides of the ball, and on special teams. Even if the Cougars pull the upset, it’s very unlikely they’ll be able to outplay their opponent by enough to absorb a special teams touchdown. WSU has allowed four special teams touchdowns – more than any other team in the country. McCaffrey averages 29.4 yards per kickoff return. If he’s able to house a kick, it’s going to be very difficult for the Cougars to recover.

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