Congratulations to Joel Hagler from Chelsea, Alabama, the winner of last week’s Stanford Daily Football Predictions Challenge, presented by Chef Chu’s.
No. 15 Stanford (3-1, 2-1 Pac-12) at Washington State (2-2, 1-0 Pac-12)
Andrew Mather: Stanford 35, Washington State 28
After four consecutive weeks playing against some fairly top-tier defenses, it’s going to be a nice breath of fresh air for the Cardinal to play against a team with little hope of bottling up Christian McCaffrey. Washington State has slowed its opponents well in stretches this season, but even a beaten up Stanford offensive line shouldn’t have much trouble getting No. 5 in space this weekend to give the Cardinal attack the jolt it’s been missing for (almost all of) the last two games. The more intriguing matchup is on the other side of the ball, however, where a shorthanded Stanford defense will be faced with the daunting challenge of stopping a Cougars offensive unit that ranks No. 1 in the Pac-12 in terms of yardage and No. 2 in terms of scoring. Mike Leach has refined his system with Luke Falk to a point where it’s become absolutely ruinous to the unprepared (something Oregon found out last weekend), and stopping it should prove a serious gut check for a talented but downtrodden Stanford squad.
There’s plenty of little subplots that figure to make this game interesting, but the ultimate question is whether, one week after getting thoroughly defeated in Seattle, Stanford can bounce back and again play like Stanford. If the Cardinal do play in the way that they’re capable of playing, it should only be a matter of time before Washington State begins to look less like the team that decimated the Ducks and more like, well, Washington State. It may take a drive or two, but I expect Stanford eventually to regain its rhythm and survive a close but ultimately decisive matchup.
Sandip Srinivas: Stanford 37, Washington State 24
Last year, Washington State was one of the defenses that was able to contain Christian McCaffrey. But this week, as Andrew said, the Cougar defense may be exactly what McCaffrey needs to get back on track.
Even in spite of what happened last week, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the Stanford offense’s prospects to exceed its whopping 6-point performance. One doesn’t have to look further than the show that Oregon running back Royce Freeman put on against Washington State — 138 yards on 19 carries with 3 touchdowns. It points to the larger idea that the Cougar front seven simply doesn’t have the personnel that the Huskies do. Look for Stanford to keep the ball on the ground after jumping out to an early lead, and a strong performance from McCaffrey as a result.
On the other side of the ball, Washington State’s Luke Falk going up against a still-depleted Stanford secondary is a troubling thought, and whichever side can prevail in that matchup will probably end up deciding the game. Falk and the passing offense will test Stanford’s backs heavily, but ultimately I see the Stanford defense getting more stops than their opponents.
Do-Hyoung Park: Stanford 41, Washington State 31
I do think that the two guys above me are underrating Washington State’s defense a bit, but at the same time, I think that last week’s loss will have served as a big wake-up call for an offensive line that was, frankly, embarrassed in the team’s biggest, most visible matchup of the season. I expect the offensive line to come out fired-up and angry, paving the way for a 200-yard rushing game from Christian McCaffrey, while Ryan Burns throws three touchdowns through the air as Stanford’s offense looks more like the 2015 version of itself. Bryce Love will also break free for a long touchdown as he continues to work his way back from injury. And after the trickery of the last few weeks, I’m expecting another unorthodox trick play from David Shaw and company.
But I’m worried about the defense. I really like Luke Falk as a quarterback, and Mike Leach’s offense operates well against defenses that can’t pressure the passer, which is something Stanford had a tremendous amount of trouble with against Washington. With Washington State’s route packages and wide receiver talent, there’s always going to be somebody open on every play — it’s just about making sure Falk doesn’t have time to find that man. I think, more often than not, he will. That said, I’m feeling a big interception from Frank Buncom that swings the momentum of a tight game at the end as Stanford adds a late field goal to pull away.
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