Stanford Cardinal (6-1 SU, 6-1 ATS) vs. Washington State Cougars (5-2 SU, 5-2 ATS)
College Football Week 9
Date/Time: Saturday, October 31, 2015 at 10:30PM EST
Where: Martin Stadium, Pullman, Washington
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: STAN -12/WSU +12
Over/Under Total: 64.5
The Stanford Cardinal come into Pullman to face the Washington State Cougars on Saturday in big Pac-12 North action. Both teams are atop the standings, with Stanford having won 6 in a row with a 4-0 conference mark. The Cougars are right behind with a 5-2 mark and a 3-1 record in the Pac-12. This game could have long-reaching ramifications.
After week one, it didnt look like either of these teams would be in this spot. Stanford was coming off one of their most pathetic showings in recent years in scoring 6 points in a one-sided loss to a good, but not great team in Northwestern. Things looked even more ominous for the Cougars after the first week of the season, following a 24-17 loss to FCS foe Portland State. Both teams have shown some character in shaking off those losses. And anyone who made the mistake of defining these teams based on those two losses has been left in the dust. Since week one, these teams have combined to register 11 covers in 12 combined games.
Stanford has looked really good, with an offense that has truly proliferated with a nearly-unstoppable running game, as the offense is run by steely senior Kevin Hogan behind center. The run-game is led by robust back Christian McCaffrey, who should eclipse 1000 yards in the first few series of this game. Remound Wright and Barry Sanders have added 12 rushing TDs and this is a ground game that has teeth and will bite. Hogan has 14 TD throws with just 4 picks, as he works with Austin Hooper, Michael Rector, and Devon Cajuste, among others. Its a run-heavy offense, but they arent altogether unbalanced, as the aerial game can jump up and get you too.
Defensively, this is not one of the more vintage Stanford groups. In recent years, both under current coach David Shaw and Jim Harbaugh before him, the offense was somewhat muted, while the defense did most of the heavy lifting. But this season, we see the offense making big steps forward, averaging nearly 38 points per game. The D is not great, but it has been more than good enough with the offense taking things up another notch or two. For the most part, weve seen the D do its job in stifling opposing offenses. By Pac-12 standards, its not so bad. This is a conference where teams face one offensively-minded opponent after the next. Its hard to be a shutdown group in this context. Again, they face another very dangerous offensive team in the Cougars this week.
Washington State is sitting at 5-2 with a chance to notch a program-changing win this week against the 8th-ranked team in the land in what would be a huge step forward for this program. Washington State is once again a pass-happy offense, but one that is good enough to do serious damage in a conference where theyve won 3 of 4 games, with their only setback a tough loss at Cal. They have won three times on the road, beating Rutgers, Oregon, and Arizona 45-42 last week. This team has shown they can win at a pretty high level in the Pac-12 this season.
Cougars sophomore gunslinger Luke Falk is nearing 3000 yards already with 26 passing touchdowns. He is throwing at a 73% clip and has been truly impressive. On the road in a tough conference game last week against Arizona, he threw for 514 yards and 5 touchdowns with no picks. He is gaining confidence and is a handful to contain with a talented receiving corps, led by Gabe Marks, who already has 57 receptions and 10 touchdowns. Dom Williams has 562 yards and 6 touchdowns. Its a deep unit, with 9 different players having double-digit receptions already this season.
With high-flying teams like WSUs, you have to wonder about defense and the truth of the matter is that the Cougars are a bit dicey in that area. In this conference, there is any number of high-scoring offenses, so giving up a lot of points isnt necessarily a terrible thing. Even good defenses get exploited in this context. But theyve been largely serviceable, allowing the offense to take over games. Even in giving up 34 points to Rutgers, 38 to Oregon, 31 to Oregon State, and 42 to Arizona, they still won all those games.
Stanford looks really good and if you take away that one loss from week one, youre talking about a team that belongs up there among the best in the land. So the 12-point spread is understandable. Its not easy to picture the WSU defense having all that much success against this run-attack. The D could conceivably be worn down to a nub by the fourth quarter. Washington State has been porous against opposing ground-attacks and should give up a health amount here, as well. They will be banking on their offense to keep them close. Its just that they cant keep the defense off the field for very long and that could cost them against the non-stop Stanford ground-and-pound.
This is actually a pretty dangerous game for Stanfordone they will get penalized for if they are caught underestimating the Cougars. Washington State can put up yards and scores in a hurry. This has the look of a game where Washington State can perhaps get off to an early lead. The concern is whether they can hang in there for all 60 minutes of a hard-pounding game with the Cardinal. I say they cover the spread.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Washington State Cougars plus 12 points.
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