Despite taking the week off, the Cougars were vaulted to No. 6 in the national polls. That means that not only will they have to shake off the rust from two weeks away from the field, now they have to deal with the pressure of rising expectations. It's a recipe for a letdown if ever there was one. The Cougars have not lost to a California school since the opening game of the 2000 season. But the last California team to beat them was Stanford.
THE CARDINAL ON OFFENSE
Overview: Stanford really has some personnel issues on offense. They have a young quarterback who was seriously rattled against USC last week and an non-cohesive offensive line that looked slower and weaker than the USC defensive front they faced. This offense is only rivaled by Arizona in terms of lack of firepower and they are losing their confidence fast.
Strategy: Lock up receiver Luke Powell, and then blitz the hell out of them. Neither quarterback they have used has shown any ability to move the offense under pressure, and no receiver outside of Powell has shown that they even have a pulse. This is a game where our superior speed should quickly become apparent. Stanford will look to use our blitzes against us, but they are facing an uphill battle in that regard.
Players to Know:
Trent Edwards, QB: The freshman Edwards is as promising a young quarterback as there is in the Pac-10, unfortunately he is in the thick of his growing pains and has a lousy line in front of him. In his first season under center, he has completed less than half his passes and thrown just four TDs against seven interceptions. So far people are comparing him to a young Carson Palmer, which is a backhanded compliment at best.
Luke Powell, WR: Powell is Stanford's best receiving threat, and often its only one. So far this season he has caught 21 balls for 242 yards, but 174 of those yards came in opening week against San Jose State. No other Stanford receiver even has 100 yards this year.
Kenneth Tolon and JR Lemon, RBs: These two are decent running tandem, averaging 110 yards per game (though that average has dropped in conference play). They need to have an inspirational performance if the Stanford offense is going to come out of its coma.
THE CARDINAL ON DEFENSE
Overview: Prior to last week's meltdown, the Stanford D was holding opponents to just 17 points per game but are now looking much more average. The strength of the defense is supposed to be in the secondary, but they lack a true shutdown corner. They also lack in size in the secondary, averaging around 5-11, 185 pounds. This is generally true of the whole unit, as Stanford has sold out most of its size in a desperate attempt to get more speed on the field. Their pass rushing is abysmal.
Strategy: Stanford is dead last in the Pac-10 in sacks, so we should expect to see a lot of blitzing even though Teevens prefers a more conservative approach. Much like Arizona, WSU needn't get too fancy here. We are bigger, stronger, and faster. We can win this game pretty easily if we don't give up the football and capitalize off of Stanford offensive mishaps.
Players to Know:
Oshiomogho Atogwe, FS: His name may be impossible to pronounce but the announcers have been getting plenty of practice at it. He leads the team in tackles and had a fumble return for a TD last week. He also accounts for two of Stanford's three team interceptions this year.
Leigh Torrence and Stanley Wilson, CBs: These guys may get left on an island if Stanford decides to open up a blitzing scheme. They are both seasoned juniors that fall into the good but not great category.
Kevin Schimmelmann, LB: A converted safety, he is undersized at around 215 pounds but plays with a lot of athleticism. He is second on the team in tackles this year.
THE CARDINAL ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Special teams have been a major strong point for Stanford. They are among the nation's elite in both kick returns and kick coverage. They also have a solid and regularly used punter in Eric Johnson. Any scenario for a Stanford victory on Saturday must involve some big plays on special teams.
SC knocked these guys out of the game long before halftime. WSU needs to make a similar effort, as it is harder to win the low scoring battles of attrition on the road. The Cougs have come out flat against two of our weaker opponents this year (New Mexico and Arizona) but had the benefit of a supportive home crowd. WSU needs to capture the momentum early and prepare for this game much like they did against Oregon and Colorado. Stanford looks like an easy opponent on paper, but if the Cougs aren't crisp coming off their bye week it could be a long afternoon. After the bye week last year it took the Cougars almost four full quarters to put away a last place Arizona squad. The Cougars need a better showing than that this week.