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Place: Stanford Stadium, Stanford, California
Stanford will play consecutive games against the worst teams in the Pac-12 beginning Saturday when it hosts Washington State. The No. 19 Cardinal are fourth in the country and lead the Pac-12 with 77.0 rushing yards allowed per game, while the Cougars have the second-worst rushing offense in the country (40.6).
Stanford is coming off a 21-3 victory at California in The Big Game and will have ample time to fine-tune its offense before a season-defining stretch against the Oregon schools. First-year Washington State coach Mike Leach is still looking for his first Pac-12 victory following the Cougars’ 31-17 loss to California on Oct. 13.
Washington State Cougars (2-5, 0-4 Pac-12): The Cougars haven’t enjoyed much success on either side of the ball as they struggle to learn Leach’s offense, which is No. 9 in the Pac-12 in points scored (21.1) and total yards. Leach continues to use senior Jeff Tuel and sophomore Connor Halliday at quarterback as Halliday continues to endure growing pains.
He was 4-of-10 for 64 yards and two interceptions last week before Tuel took over – for the second straight week – and went 30-of-53 for 320 yards and two interceptions. The Cougars have the No. 10 defense in the Pac-12 in total yards and points allowed (30.4). Safety Deone Bucannon is second in the Pac-12 with 8.6 tackles per game.
Stanford Cardinal (5-2, 3-1): Quarterback Josh Nunes has done admirably while tasked with the impossible job of replacing Andrew Luck, but he’ll have to play a lot better if the Cardinal are going to seriously contend for the Pac-12 title. The junior has completed 53.0 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions, with a typical game (16-of-31, one touchdown, one interception) against California.
Nunes should be able to gain confidence in the next two weeks against two of the three worst defenses in the Pac-12. The Cardinal trail Oregon State and Oregon by one game in the Pac-12 North Division. After a contest at struggling Colorado, Stanford plays the No. 9 Beavers and at the No. 2 Ducks.
1. The Cardinal, who have won four straight over the Cougars by an average margin of 31 points, lead the series 36-25-1 following their 44-14 victory at Pullman, Wash., last season.
2. RB Stepfan Taylor rushed for a career-high 189 yards last week and moved past Toby Gerhart into second on the all-time Stanford rushing list with 3,616 yards. Taylor needs 417 yards to pass Darrin Nelson.
3. Washington State junior WR Marquess Wilson has 3,034 career receiving yards, second in the country among active players to Duke senior Conner Vernon (3,424).
Vegas Prediction: Stanford 42, Washington State 17