The Early Glimpse: Cougs vs. Card

I KNOW, DEAR Coug fan, you're down, possibly distraught still days after Washington State gave away what could, probably should, have been a win at UCLA last Saturday. But as coaches are prone to say, we have to move on. And what better way to get over a Rick Neuheisel hangover than a Homecoming showdown against No. 5 Stanford?

As I wrote last week, I feared the Cougars would be up against it at UCLA, not so much because of the Bruins, but because it's damn hard for a college football team in a BCS conference to win back-to-back road games.

This week, I'll attempt to be a bit sunnier. While I won't predict a win over Stanford – this would be the college upset of the season to date – I believe this will be a competitive game and the Cougars have a shot.

At this stage of Washington State's program development, that's all you can ask. Be competitive, give us a reason to be interested in the fourth quarter.

Stanford, ranked fifth in the USA Today Coaches' poll and seventh in the writers' Associated Press poll, has breezed to a 5-0 record. They have everyone's 2012 No. 1 NFL draft pick in quarterback Andrew Luck.

The Cardinal hasn't won a game by less than 26 points.

Interestingly, Stanford and Washington State have played the same opponents the past two weeks in UCLA and Colorado. The Cardinal rolled, beating the Bruins 45-19 and the Buffaloes 48-7, while WSU split against UCLA and Colorado. While Stanford's performances were obviously more impressive, both were played at home, while the Cougars hit the road for both.

I think it's a different story for Washington State playing at home, energized for its first game in Pullman in more than a month against the best team it will face in Martin Stadium this season.

Stanford may prove to have too much for Washington State's defense to handle, but the Cougars can hang around if their offense shows up Saturday. And by showing up, I mean something a little more daring than the possession game they employed against UCLA.

Washington State is getting closer to ready for a game like this. A few years ago, some would have given their tickets away when a top-10 team came to Pullman. Remember USC 69-0 in 2008?

But last year, the Cougars showed life against a team similar to Stanford. In no way did WSU threaten to beat No. 3 Oregon, but they at least threw a scare into the Ducks before losing 43-23.

Washington State is better this season than last, and this Stanford outfit isn't as good as last year's Ducks. All that doesn't add up to a Cougar victory on Saturday, but you ought to expect a decent performance.

By the way, the last time Washington State beat a Top 25 team was in 2006, when the Cougars defeated No. 16 Oregon 34-23 in Pullman.

The Kickoff: This Saturday at 4:30 p.m., with TV coverage on Versus. Stanford is a 20 ½-point favorite.

The series: Stanford has beaten Washington State three straight, winning the past three games by scores of 38-28 (2010), 39-13 (2009) and 58-0 (2008). The Cougars' last win over Stanford was 2007, a 33-17 victory in Pullman. Stanford leads the all-time series 35-25-1.

Familiar faces: Three Stanford players hail from the state of Washington, led by David DeCastro, a starting senior guard from Bellevue. Also on the Cardinal roster are junior fullback Geoff Meinken of Lynnwood and freshman defensive end Charlie Hopkins of Spokane's Gonzaga Prep. One of Stanford's assistant coaches on defense is Tavita Pritchard, brother of WSU freshman linebacker Tana Pritchard and son of 1981 Holiday Bowl Cougar David Pritchard.

Statistically speaking: Alex Hoffman-Ellis is the Cougars' top tackler this season with 34 total stops, followed by C.J. Mizell with 29 and Deone Bucannon with 27.

ESPN's College Gameday had been looking at WSU-Stanford as their stop this week but is headed to Eugene instead. Rest assured, however, that Ol' Crimson will be flying behind the heads of Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso on Saturday for the 111th consecutive time on the weekly show, dating back to the beginning of the 2004 season.

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel

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