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Stanford can get back on track vs Cougars in an already-bonkers Pac-12 season

It's important to remember that this season is a very long way from over

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

It's Wednesday. Emotions have settled...slightly.

The Cardinal now have 2 losses on the season and have not reached the halfway mark yet, leaving them 3-2 on the year. Where does this leave the hopes of a Pac-12 Championship appearance or a Playoff appearance?

Believe it or not, the Cardinal are mathematically, theoretically, and systematically still in contention for both of their pre-season goals.

Why?

The California Golden Bears are leading the PAC-12 North.

No it's not opposite day. The same team that did not trail the Arizona Bearcats until the clock read 00:00 is now your PAC-12 North division leader ahead of the Mariota-led Oregon Ducks and your Stanford Cardinal.

You may have seen the trending phrase Team Chaos (or #TeamChaos, for the more tech-savvy) this weekend on popular forums. Well, that's because it was a weekend in which more AP Top 25 teams lost to lesser or unranked opponents for the first time since 1992. Also Katy Perry went 7-2 on her College Gameday Celebrity picks, which I had to find a way to squeeze in because apparently she is a pop star and a freaking college football savant.

Now, back to the Cardinal.

In two days time, Shaw leads his team against a Mike Leach's Swashbuckling Air Raid Washington State offense in Palo Alto. This is not your father's Wazzu.

This Cougars team has shown grit, determination, and fight against every opponent they have played and have only gotten better since an abysmal beginning to the start of their season. With losses to an improved Rutgers squad and a rejuvenated post-Chris Ault Reno team, it all but looked hopeless for Washington State until they picked up an expected win against Portland State.

And it has been nonstop fury from there.

An astounding performance in Pullman against Oregon only to lose on a game-ending no call on a blatant pass interference (The Spirit of Glasses Ref lives on) showed Leach has this team firing on every cylinder except special teams.  Of course, a misfire on special teams ultimately cost them last week against PAC-12 North leader Cal (It's even weirder typing it than reading it).

This leaves us with a rejuvenated, pissed-off Washington State team looking to come to Palo Alto for its signature win on the season, fighting for nothing less than to upset a downtrodden Cardinal football team.

They're under pressure, and Stanford needs to find a way to get creative. And fast.

We saw it last year in the Rose Bowl. We saw it this year against USC. If Bloomgren and Shaw don't figure something out soon, the Cardinal are going to find themselves tied or down 7 late in the game against an improved team that probably doesn't match up well favorably against the Cardinal in the trenches.

When it comes down to it, you can't expect to run the ball on 1st and 2nd downs and not expect teams to have figured out you're throwing on 3rd after 3 quarters of action.

So what needs to happen? Washington State ranks 1st in overall passing offense and exactly 125th out of 125 FBS eligible football teams in rushing. Stanford ranks 3rd against the pass averaging only 107.4 yards per game.

I'll let you do the math.

If Stanford wants to move on to 4-2, the Cardinal need to stop the pass, run the ball, and get creative on offense against WSU defense that is hemorrhaging points at a rate of 35 per game.