THROUGH FOUR GAMES, the growth of the Cougar program has been apparent within the Pac-12 footprint.…
| Cougars (3-1) vs Cardinal (3-0)|
AT A GLANCE
7:00 pm Pacific Time
Players to Know
Kevin Hogan, QB: Undefeated in eight starts at Stanford. Tough and efficient, Hogan has completed 63 percent of his throws with seven touchdowns and only two interceptions in 2013.
Tyler Gaffney, RB: Lead back in a loaded backfield. Averaging 110 rushing yards and two scores per game. Missed last season pursuing a professional baseball career.
Ty Montgomery, WR: Montgomery has a prototype NFL frame and is Stanford's primary receiving threat. He has caught half of Hogan's total passing yards this season.
Joshua Garnett, OG: The sophomore is expected to replace preseason All-America guard David Yankey, who is out for a personal issue.
Stanford operates a physical, pro-style offense designed to wear defenses down throughout the game. They will even utilize seven or even eight offensive linemen at times to get their shots in. They are predominantly a rushing offense, but the potency of their passing game can be dramatic. Hogan averages 8.8 yards per pass attempt. Hogan is also a threat to take off and run for good yardage.
WSU hung with Stanford for a full four quarters last year -- but they didn't have to contend with Hogan in that game. Though Stanford's running game is the biggest concern, the Cougs have not faced a quarterback this good yet in 2013.
12-for-12 in the red zone: While so many offenses are designed to perform between the 20's, Stanford's offense is tailor made for the red zone. They have scored on every trip this season -- with touchdowns 75 percent of the time.
Offensive MAPS© Rating: plus-26.3 For more on the MAPS©, click here.
THE CARDINAL ON DEFENSE
Players to Know
Trent Murphy, OLB: All-America senior with an enormous 6-6, 260 pound frame. Led the team in sacks and tackles-for-loss in 2012 and a strong candidate to do so again this year.
Shayne Skov, ILB: All-America senior who leads the 2013 team in tackles. Missed most of 2011 with a knee injury and is only getting back to full speed this year.
Ed Reynolds / Devon Carrington, FS: Reynolds is an All-America senior who led the team in interceptions in 2012 – he will miss the first half of the WSU game for targeting last week. Carrington has speed, chasing down Oregon QB Marcus Mariota in last year's win for Stanford.
Stanford is loaded with talent and experience on defense. It allows them to be very patient with their offense. The Cardinal run a base 3-4 system, with six enormous senior starters anchoring the front seven. Stanford owns the nation's longest streak of consecutive games in generating a turnover.
The Cardinal are strong and consistent on all fronts, rarely making mistakes and remaining poised in close games. The Cougars need to do the same. Stanford's MAPS© score is surprisingly average for such a strong group, but it also reflects their maturity. They do not take risks and do not rely on big plays to win games. Rather they have a deliberate and methodical approach to wear you down as the game rolls on. As with the USC game, the best WSU strategy might be to hang around. The line must protect Connor Halliday, and he in turn needs to protect the team and not turn the ball over. Staying within a touchdown is the name of the game.
Sacks per game – 2.3: Stanford's pass rush is solid, but well off last year's pace. Expect them to turn up the pressure this week to try and force Halliday into making bad decisions.
Defense MAPS© Rating: minus-10
THE CARDINAL ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Stanford has blocked two punts in their first three games. Outside of that, they are solid but unremarkable in the special teams areas.
-As good as the Andrew Luck years were, this might be Stanford's strongest team ever. Their first two wins weren't lopsided enough for some but they hit a groove against ASU and might be poised to get on a roll. They are a legitimate contender for the national title and they know it.
--A strong first quarter or half by the Cougs, where they are all flying high, won't be enough if they don't maintain that until the end. And if that scenario plays out, WSU could let a lot of good early work go to waste. Stanford is very proficient at making winning plays late.
-The Cougs are 5-5 in the annual Seattle game series that began in 2002. They have never beaten a team with a winning record.
-Stanford's offensive MAPS© rating is ten points better than WSU's. They have not hurt themselves the way the Cougs have this season with turnovers. But the importance of WSU's plus-4 defensive MAPS© rating cannot be overstated. If WSU has a defense that is a net contributor in points production, they can absolutely win this game.
-- Stanford's schedule does them no favors. An opening week bye was an odd choice that could haunt them later in the year. The good news for Stanford is Washington, UCLA, Oregon and Notre Dame all travel to Palo Alto.