Harbaugh arrived in Palo Alto in 2007, with the Cardinal coming off a 1-11 season. He went 4-8 in 2007, 5-7 in 2008 and then broke through with an 8-5 mark in 2009. That 2009 campaign was the first winning record posted by the Cardinal since 2002.
This year they are 5-1 and ranked No. 12 in the polls.
| Cougars (1-6) vs Cardinal (5-1)|
AT A GLANCE
2:00 pm Pacific Time
Players to Know
Andrew Luck, QB: The Pac-10 might just have next year's No. 1 NFL draft pick, and it isn't Jake Locker. Andrew Luck's quarterback stock has done nothing but soar this year – he's big, (6-4, 235), strong armed (8.9 ypa), and accurate (66 percent, 16 TD, 4 INTs). Despite his size, Luck is surprisingly good on the move – he gains 40-plus yards a game on average and 7.8 hashes per rush.
Stepfan Taylor, RB: Speedy and dynamic, the sophomore leads the Cardinal in rushing and is second on the team with 17 receptions. He averages 114 yards of offense per game and has rushed for over 100 yards in each of his last three games against Notre Dame, Oregon and USC.
Luck gets the press clippings but Stanford's o-line gives this team its potency. The Cardinal rank No. 5 in the nation in scoring at 43.3 points per game and pretty much do a mix of everything well. They are one of the best offenses in the country and average 210 rushing yards and 260 passing yards per game.
Oregon beat the Cardinal by outrunning them. No team has held the Cardinal to under 31 points this season, but last week's inspired defensive showing by the Cougs, particularly in the second half, suggests that WSU might surprise the Cardinal at times. Stanford generally comes out of the gate quickly but they've struggled in the second half. Keep the Cardinal within reach will be key.
THE CARDINAL ON DEFENSE
Players to Know
Sione Fua, NT: Has an excellent combination of size and speed, with an impressive 3 sacks and 4.5 TFL's from the nose tackle position.
Delano Howell, S: He leads the Cardinal in tackles with 35, including 25 solo stops.
Stanford's defense looked dominant though the first month of the season, but things unraveled very publicly in the second half against Oregon. And they didn't look much better against USC. Oregon ran right over the Cardinal defenders, while the Trojans passed over the top of them. Stanford's 3-4 defense has big, experienced players and most prognosticators expect the defense to improve substantially after two weeks of prep for WSU.
The WSU offense has drawn the most kudos this season but last week, it was the WSU defense that led the way. The Cougar offense needs to recapture the rhythm it found against UCLA and Oregon. Washington State, with injuries having hit the offensive line, must find a way to better run the ball.
THE CARDINAL ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Kicker Nate Whitaker is a perfect 10-for-10 on the season, he has not missed a field goal all year, he is absolutely, positively, money in the bank. Jinx concluded.
Stanford puts up points, and the Cougars will have to find a way to match them or things could go south in a hurry. At the same time, Arizona's offense isn't exactly chopped liver, even without Nick Foles, and the Cougs held them to nine points under their season average and 352 total yards of offense.
The Cougs are fighting, and they've continued to improve – that's become apparent. Sooner or later, WSU is going to catch somebody flush in the jaw, feed off their confidence and pull off the upset. But a road game against the No. 12 team in the nation, one boasting a balanced attack and coming off a bye, might mean that upset victory will have to wait.
But if WSU can hang with the Cardinal early... Stanford is favored by 34 1/2 on Saturday. Yet USC was favored by 41 1/2 points when they faced Stanford in 2007 -- anyone and everyone forecasting that game said Stanford didn't have a chance in hell to knock off USC. But they did, 24-23. Wouldn't it be something if the Cougs were to pull off something similar. They can start by grabbing a little Luck, double meaning intended.