Stanford vs Washington State: What to Watch for in Seattle on Saturday

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

The Cougars are 3-1 and looking for a big upset - but the Cardinal will be looking to dominate the day in Seattle

What to watch for on Stanford's side:

1. Next Man Up. The Cardinal are missing Ed Reynolds for a half and David Yankey for the game (and Barry Browning will miss this game), so Stanford's depth will be tested this Saturday. Reynolds' absence is perhaps the most impactful against a Wazzu team that routinely throws the ball 40+ times a game, but Yankey might be the Cardinal's best player, so he's not easy to replace either. Instead of massive Andrus Peat setting the edge with the veteran Yankey next to him, it's now a pair of sophomores on the left side. Thankfully, Josh Garnett looks eminently capable of handling the job - but I bet Stanford runs the ball a lot in the first quarter to help him get his feet wet.

2. Party in the Backfield. In an absolutely heinous game last season, the Cardinal defense sacked Wazzu QB Jeff Tuel 10 times and held WSU to -16 rushing yards (yes, that's a negative number). Stanford should be able to get into the backfield again - the only question is how often. Creating total havoc up front can mask any issues you have in the defensive backfield, so I expect Stanford to bring the heat quite a bit in the first half. With Reynolds and Browning missing, forcing Connor Halliday to make rushed decisions will be imperative.

3. They Signed up for 60. Stanford let off the gas too early last week and it almost came back to bite the Cardinal. Will Stanford put it on Wazzu for 60 minutes this week and finally play the complete game that it's capable of playing? Or will the intensity drop again if Stanford has a big lead? I'm hoping David Shaw's team will be ready to put a dominant four quarters on the same field where it lost a terrible game to Washington a year ago.

What to watch for on Washington State's side:

1. Call me... Kitty Cat. This Cougar defense is playing some good football over the last couple of weeks, and while they haven't exactly handled a murderer's row of offenses (USC, Southern Utah and Idaho), they're only allowing 12 points per game this season. Last year, they allowed 33.7 points a game. So this week should help answer a question: who is the real Washington State defense? It's probably not a huge leap to say that they're better than last year, but the Cardinal offense will challenge the Cougars in a way they haven't been tested yet this season.

2. Testing the Stanford D-backs. Mike Leach abhors running the football. The Cougars ran the ball only 28 percent of the time last year (in contrast, Stanford ran it 58% of the time last year and has run it 65% of the time this year). Connor Halliday threw the ball 65 times against Auburn, and they might have to throw it that many times this Saturday if they get behind. This game presents a big challenge for the Stanford defensive backs due to the sheer volume of passes that will be thrown and the absence of Ed Reynolds. So far, the cornerbacks have done a good job making life difficult for opposing quarterbacks, but there's an element of the unknown this weekend.

3. Home away from Home. The fact that this game is in Seattle presents a curious X-factor. Last year, the Cougars played Oregon in Seattle and were down just 23-19 at halftime after missing a PAT and getting only field goals off two red zone opportunities. The Ducks pounded Wazzu in the second half, but that first half was a little too close for comfort for a top-5 team. Will the Cougars come out and play inspired ball again or will they drag because this is a de facto road game for them?

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