Stanford vs. Washington State prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins Saturday night’s matchup between the Cardinal and Cougars.
When: Saturday, Oct. 8 – 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: Stanford Stadium, Stanford, California
TV Broadcast: ESPN
Well, that was embarrassing. We all knew Washington’s defense was for real, and we knew Chris Petersen meant business. But very few thought Stanford would come out as flat as it did against the Huskies. After winning its first three games of the 2016 season, the Cardinal went into Seattle and left with a 44-6 beating handed out by Washington. It was all purple from start to finish.
On the other side of the field is Washington State, who started much slower than anticipated with back-to-back losses to Eastern Washington and Boise State to start its season. Since then, though, the Cougars have taken down Idaho, and last week, they hung 51 points in a win over over Oregon. Wazzu never trailed in that game against the Ducks.
The all-time series between these two programs has been heavily dominated by the Cardinal, 40-25-1. Stanford has won the last eight meetings, dating back to 2008. Washington State’s last win in 2007 came in Pullman, 33-17, but last year’s meeting in Pullman ended with a 30-28 win for David Shaw’s team.
What To Know About Stanford
The Cardinal has been pretty banged up, and it went into that loss to Washington very hobbled, but you can only blame injuries for so long. Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder are both uncertain for this game, and that means trouble for Stanford’s defense, which allowed 424 yards of total offense to the Huskies last week.
Offensively, Stanford must find ways to put the ball in Christian McCaffrey’s hands. He got only 12 carries for 49 rushing yards and five catches for 30 yards against Washington. He’s still averaging 5.3 yards per carry and 8.7 yards per catch, but that performance certainly didn’t help his Heisman Trophy candidacy. JJ Arcega-Whiteside was the only real bright spot for Stanford in that loss. He caught two balls for 24 yards and a touchdown — a touchdown on which the ensuing two-point conversion failed.
What to Know About Washington State
Having said that, Washington State does not have a defense like Washington’s. The Cougars let Royce Freeman run for days last week. The Ducks’ star halfback rolled for 138 yards on 19 carries with three touchdowns. Wazzu allowed 416 yards of total offense to Oregon. Although, Darrien Molton came up big with a forced fumble, and Isaac Dotson picked off the first pass of his career.
With all of that, Luke Falk was flinging the ball around. He only ended up with one touchdown in the game, but he’s rocking a 6:1 touchdown to interception ratio right now. Falk completed 36-of-48 passes for 371 yards, bringing his season total to 1,495 yards. He only found Gabe Marks twice for 20 yards, but they did hook up for that touchdown throw. Jamal Morrow, James Williams and Gerard Wicks carried the offense with a combined 273 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns on 35 carries.
Offense: Stanford – Falk is a much, much better quarterback than Burns, but as long as Stanford has McCaffrey, it gets the nod. He’s the best player on the field.
Defense: Washington State – Stanford is too banged up right now to get this advantage. With Molton and Robert Taylor flying around, the Cougs get this.
Special Teams: Stanford – Erik Powell has missed all four of his field goal attempts, and Stanford has McCaffrey returning kicks. The Cardinal gets the edge.
Coaching: Stanford – Mike Leach can run an offense really well, but David Shaw is simply a better head coach.
Matchup To Watch
Christian McCaffrey vs. Luke Falk
Both teams need their respective stars to ball out in star-like fashion. Stanford needs McCaffrey to literally carry them to victory, and Wazzu needs Falk to be precise and drop dimes over the Cardinal’s defense. It’s not as though one of them is likely to have a bad game. McCaffrey’s off game last week was mostly credited to a great Washington defense. But it’s about which one will show up in the key moments of the game. Can McCaffrey break enough tackles to pick up a first down or get an extra 10 yards on a punt return to set up field position? Can Falk move the chains, stretch out the Stanford defense both vertically and horizontally, and deliver in the red zone? We’ll find out which star will show out more.
Spread: Stanford -7.5
Stanford vs. Washington State Prediction
McCaffrey is going to go off. After being bottled up against Washington, last year’s Heisman trophy runner-up will take a few touches to get going, but then he’s going to explode for some gashing runs. It doesn’t matter how Burns gets him the ball, he just needs to get No. 5 the ball: stretch run, trap plays, screen game, etc. Stanford will rely on its superstar and will get back on track after its first loss of the season. Luke Falk will do damage, too. He’ll take advantage of a banged up Stanford secondary and will throw for 250 yards with a couple touchdowns. He’ll touch base with Marks early and will slowly work that connection as the game goes on, but the Cougars won’t outscore the Cardinal. Stanford wins by a touchdown.
Stanford vs. Washington State Score Prediction: Stanford 42, Washington State 35