Looking in a Mirror?

THE SIMILARITIES between Stanford and Washington State are downright eerie. And it helps explain why both teams -- WSU 5-0 and Stanford 3-0 -- bring unblemished records into their 2 pm showdown on The Farm Saturday.

To begin with, both clubs are finding it hard to attract national respect despite great starts. Stanford has barely nudged into the Top 25 and WSU is lurking a few spots down.

Both teams feature 16 returning starters, including veteran quarterbacks who are playing lights out.

For Stanford, senior signal caller Randy Fasani has been nothing less than Elway-esque, passing for 10 TDs and but one interception in the Cards' three wins over Boston College, Arizona State and USC.

He ranks fifth in the nation in passing efficiency (168.2 rating), and second in the conference in points responsible for (20 per game) WSU's Jason Gesser, meanwhile, has fired 14 TDs against four INTs in five games and ranks 14th nationally in pass efficiency at 155.72 and tenth in points responsible for at 16.80.

And the list goes on.

The Cougars are averaging 42 points per game, Stanford 36.7.

The Cougars' average margin of victory is 23, Stanford's 16.

Both teams' defensive fronts were unproven coming into the season, but have been outstanding so far. That stellar play in the trenches has helped the Cougars hold opponents to 59.8 rushing yards per game -- seventh best in the nation -- while Stanford's hosses are holding opponents to 81.3 rushing yards per game -- 12th best in the nation.

For all the parallels, though, there are equally interesting differences. Chief of them is the sack attack. The Cougars, with 19 sacks so far, are on pace to rival WSU's legendary Palouse Posse defense of 1994. The Card have but five sacks on the season.

On offense, the Card are more balanced, averaging 195 rushing yards per game and 250 by air. That compares with 164 and 323 for the Cougars.

And therein lies the key match up of this game: WSU's run stopping ability versus Stanford's stout offensive line and the two standout running backs who make it sing, Brian Allen and Kerry Carter.

GAME BREAKERS: Stanford -- WR Luke Powell and DB Tank Williams. WSU -- WR Nakoa McElrath and DB Billy Newman.

PROBABLE: RB Dave Minnich (knee bruise), QB Jason Gesser (chest bruise). QUESTIONABLE: LB Alex Nguae (ankle sprain), DB Josh Moen (knee strain). OUT: LB Will Derting (ACL, right knee), OL Gerald Cook (LEFT knee), CB Marcus Trufant (broken wrist).

WSU has not allowed an opponent this season to rush for more than 100 yards -- that five-game reign of terror rivals a string of five mid-season games in 1994 when the Palouse Posse held opponents to less than 100 yards rushing,.

WSU has scored 210 points in the first five games of the 2001 season -- one point more than the 1988 Aloha Bowl team scored in its first five and 28 more than the 1997 club registred in its opening five. In fact, the 2001 team is second only to the 1907 WSC squad, which racked up 244 points in five games.

Junior college transfer Adam Holiday has booted 25 of his 40 kickoffs into the end zone this season. And only six of his kicks have been returned. A year ago WSI two touchbacks the ENTIRE season.

THE LINE: Stanford by 3 1/2

TV: No live coverage in the Pacific Northwest. Replay Sunday at 10 am on Fox Sports Northwest.

THE SERIES: Stanford leads 30-20-1 and have won eight of the last nine. Stanford is 5-1 vs. WSU under Ty Willingham. The only WSU win over Stanford since 1990 occurred in 1997 when the Rose Bowl bound Cougars beat Stanford 38-28.

Cougfan Top Stories