And then there’s the most inexplicable of them all: Washington State’s Connor Halliday breaks the NCAA FBS record with 734 passing yards, throws 6 TDs (three of which went to River Cracraft [pictured]), has no interceptions, and yet the Cougars come up one yard short in losing to Cal, 60-59.
It doesn’t seem like any Pac-12 outcome is out-of-bounds these days. So why not Washington State over Stanford?
Let’s face it: you can make a case Mike Leach’s teams play better on the road than at home. Last year, the Cougars beat Arizona, California and USC on the road, and this season’s biggest win has come at Utah. Leach’s Pac-12 record at home is 2-9, while on the road it’s 4-6.
Weird, but them’s the facts.
But then how do you account for Stanford’s 55-17 whipping of the Cougars in Seattle last year? Easy. Go back to 2012, where WSU went on the road and nearly shocked Stanford, losing 24-17.
If you think the craziness ended last weekend, guess again. There’s every reason to believe the events of Oct. 2 and 4 just set the tone for a Pac-12 conference boasting incredible parity this season. Oregon no longer strikes fear in opponents. USC’s depth remains an ever-growing issue. UCLA is way too inconsistent. Stanford needs all it can extract from its physical defense to offset a limp offense.
With the exception of (perhaps) Colorado, it looks like any team can win, home or away game.
And that includes Washington State at Stanford.
Through five games, Stanford has a 20-13 win, and a 13-10 and a 17-14 loss. They are the anti-Pac 12, which much prefers the 30 and 40-point games, and yes, also 60-59.
With a third-year starting quarterback in Kevin Hogan, there was an expectation for a little more from the Stanford offense. Two weeks ago after a 20-13 win over Washington, Cardinal coach David Shaw gave a critique of the offense, saying “we’re a semi-efficient, sloppy offense and that’s not one thing we’ve ever been known for, and it’s one thing we better not be known for from here on out this season.”
Yet things didn’t get much better last Saturday against Notre Dame, where the Cardinal offense generated only 205 yards and two touchdowns.
How does this impact Washington State? While this is the best defense the Cougars will have faced all season, Stanford hasn’t seen an offense like WSU’s. If the Cougars can find a few big plays Friday night, it might be enough to hang in a game against a somewhat struggling Cardinal offense.
First, Stanford’s highs. Nationally, the Cardinal rank No. 1 in scoring defense (8.6 ppg), No. 2 in total defense (232.4 ypg), No. 2 in pass defense (107.4 ypg) and No. 17 in third-down defense.
The picture isn’t as pretty on offense, but when you have a defense like Stanford’s, it masks some warts. Stanford averages 371.8 yards per game, and it’s fairly balanced between run and pass (142 yards rushing, 229.8 passing).
Hogan is 89 of 136 for 1,041 yards and eight touchdowns. Hogan also leads the Cardinal in rushing touchdowns with three. Stanford’s ground game is spread between three backs in Wright, Sanders and Young, none with eye-popping numbers. Ty Montgomery is clearly Stanford’s best receiver, with 30 catches for 287 yards and three touchdowns. Montgomery is also a dangerous punt returner, with an average of 21.8 yards per play.
Defensively, watch out for linebacker Peter Kalambayi, who has four sacks through five games. The Cardinal’s top tacklers are linebackers Blake Martinez (37) and A.J. Tarpley (33). Stanford has four interceptions this season, though no one with more than one. Outside linebacker Kevin Anderson is one of Stanford’s top defenders.
The series: In probably what was the worst home field performance of the Leach era, Stanford throttled WSU 55-17 last season. The beatdown was as least as bad as the final score indicates, as the Cardinal led 48-3 early in the fourth quarter after Kevin Hogan passed for 286 yards and three touchdowns. Halliday was ineffective, completing 24 of 36 passes for 184 yards.
Stanford has won six consecutive games over WSU. The Cougars last win over the Cardinal was a 33-17 decision in 2007. Stanford leads the series 38-25-1.
Familiar faces: The Cardinal have six Washingtonians on their roster in senior tight end Charlie Hopkins (Spokane), junior guard Joshua Garnett (Puyallup), junior linebacker Sam Shober (Monroe), junior receiver Michael Rector (Gig Harbor), sophomore free safety Calvin Chandler (Lakewood) and freshman receiver Isaiah Brandt-Sims (Wenatchee). The lone coach with Cougar ties is quarterbacks/receivers coach Tavita Pritchard, who grew up in Tacoma and is Cougar LB Tana Pritchard's brother.
Read Nick Daschel’s occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel