5 keys for WSU against Stanford

GRANTED, IT MAY SEEM COUNTERINTUITIVE given everything we've seen from Mike Leach and the Air Raid offense over the years. But it might well also be Washington State’s best chance to knock off No. 8 Stanford.

WHEN WSU HAS THE BALL
1. Shorten the game.

Mike Leach doesn’t care about time of possession and he’s shown in the past he doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on clock management – Leach’s clock management is to go score again. But Stanford leads the nation in time of possession.  They are happy to grind clock and in a game like this, from my chair, WSU should follow suit.  It might not be the case other weeks, but reducing the number of overall possessions is to the Cougs’ advantage against Stanford.

2. Strike with balance.
Stanford has no particular defensive weakness, therefore WSU cannot expect to leverage any particular strength.  WSU and Luke Falk must utilize the running game and keep everyone involved, and that will open up so much of what they want to attack with on offense against the Card.

WHEN WSU IS ON DEFENSE
3. Extra attention on Christian McCaffrey. 
McCaffrey is getting such a huge workload in this offense, Cougar linebackers Jeremiah Allison (pictured above) and Peyton Pelluer (and probably also nickel Parker Henry at times) need to make him their primary focus.  This in turn will leave the secondary exposed to a very efficient passing game. But it’s pick your poison here, and WSU should try to make QB Kevin Hogan beat them, it’s WSU’s best option.


4. Match the scheme.
Stanford runs a lot of base plays out of what look like extreme goal line packages, featuring 7-8 offensive linemen.  WSU cannot sit back and acquiesce to the mismatch in size.  WSU can match the personnel effectively, and contest the line of scrimmage, but not unless they adjust their defensive front in these situations.


5. Quick kick. 
I'm not sure if Luke Falk can actually punt, but WSU should find out.  McCaffrey is much too dangerous to give any extra opportunities.  Alternatively, if the Cougs don't want to go for it on fourth down, they might need Erik Powell to kick it out of bounds -- with the full understanding they’re probably going to give up some yards on the punt.  As much as a short punt might stick in the coaching staff’s craw, it’s better than a return for score and WSU’s special teams have given no indication they’re ready to stop, well, anyone when it comes to returns (two punt, two kickoff returns for TDs in seven games. Ouch).

WSU-Stanford:  7:30 p.m
TV: ESPN
Matt Moore’s prediction: WSU 33, Stanford 30


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