The Early Glimpse: Cougs vs. Card

IF EVER THERE was a good time for a Saturday bye, last week was it for Washington State. The rested Cougars head into the final five games of their 2012 season, starting this Saturday at No. 19 Stanford. Will the rest help the Cougars (can't imagine it will hurt)? It's hard to say, because the track record of bye weeks under Mike Leach is mixed.

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Some coaches have fabulous records after a bye week, others not so good. Former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti was 15-2 coming off a bye week, for example. But bye week records are often misleading.

Did the coach play the majority of his post-bye week games at home, against soft competition, or on the road against a top 25 opponent? Does the coach look at a bye week as chance to sharpen up the starters, or an opportunity to work with young players who spend their regular-season weeks working on the scout team?

If we take the Bill Parcells you-are-what-your-record-says-you-are mindset, Mike Leach is certainly no great shakes coming off a bye. In 10 years at Texas Tech, Leach was 2-5 after a bye week.

But here's where the record is a little misleading. Under Leach, the Red Raiders played few stiffs coming off a bye: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State (twice), Texas, Kansas State, Texas A&M and North Carolina State. Two of the five losses came when the opponent was ranked in the top 20, including No. 5 Oklahoma in 2008. Five of the seven games were played on the road.

Also curious is that Leach had several years when Texas Tech didn't have an in-season bye. The Red Raiders went without a Saturday break in 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

So if you're anticipating a bump in productivity from the Cougars, it might not be rooted in much other than hope -- if Leach's Texas Tech history is any indication. Maybe that mark will improve during his run at Washington State, but only time will tell.

The kickoff: Washington State (2-5, 0-4) at Stanford (5-2, 3-1), 3:15 p.m. in Stanford Stadium. Game televised by Pac-12 Network. The betting line is Stanford by 21.

About Stanford: The Cardinal, ranked No. 19 in the Coaches and AP polls, is coming off an impressive 21-3 win over California (the week previous, the Bears beat Washington State 31-17). About the only game Stanford looked unimpressive was their loss to the UW, where they could get nothing going at all on offense and lost 17-13.

But WSU looks to have its hands full in getting its offense untracked against Stanford. With one exception, the Cardinal defense has been rock solid, giving up 17 points or fewer during regulation play in six of its seven games. Stanford ranks fourth in the country in run defense (77 yards per game), and 34th overall (347 ypg). Linebackers Chase Thomas and Shayne Skov are among the Cardinal's defensive leaders.

Offensively, Stanford prefers a tough, physical ball-control style led by running back Stepfan Taylor, No. 3 in Pac-12 rushing yards with 846. Opponents have had some success forcing quarterback Josh Nunes to make plays. Nunes is just over a 50 percent passer, with 114 completions out of 215 attempts, for 1,484 yards and nine touchdowns. Tight end Zach Ertz is Stanford's leading receiver with 31 catches for 515 yards and three scores.

Last year: No. 7 Stanford pulled away during the second half to beat the Cougars 44-14 in Pullman. Quarterback Andrew Luck threw an interception on his first pass, and the Cardinal led only 10-7 at halftime. But Luck was on fire during the second half, throwing four touchdown passes as Stanford rolled. Jeff Tuel returned from a collarbone injury to play in this game, completing 17 of 30 passes for 145 yards.

The series: Stanford has won four consecutive games over WSU, and six of the past eight. The Cougars last win over the Cardinal was a 33-17 victory in 2007 in Pullman. Stanford leads the all-time series 36-25-1.

Familiar faces: Stanford has five players from the state of Washington in freshman guard Joshua Garnett (Puyallup), sophomore defensive end Charlie Hopkins (Spokane), senior fullback Geoff Meinken (Lynnwood), freshman receiver Michael Rector (Gig Harbor) and freshman linebacker Sam Shober (Monroe).

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-12 ramblings at

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