STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Washington State is coming off a huge home victory over Oregon and Stanford is coming off a huge road loss to Washington.
The Cougars are hoping to carry that success into this week and the Cardinal want nothing more than to play better.
A victory Saturday for either team will go a long way in determining the caliber of bowl game each team may wind up in at the end of the season.
The No. 15 Cardinal (3-1, 2-1 Pac-12), preseason favorites in the North Division, probably have more to lose. A second loss will make it impossible to remain in the national discussion and will likely hurt running back Christian McCaffrey’s chances at the Heisman.
The Cougars (2-2, 1-0) can gain national respect and push quarterback Luke Falk into the conversation.
“I don’t think that will be the same Stanford team we’ll see,” Cougars coach Mike Leach said. “One key with Stanford is to be physically strong enough to address the issues Stanford gives you. Washington is pretty strong. Stanford got back on their heels and never came out of.”
Stanford owns an eight-game winning streak against the Cougars, extending it last year when Washington State missed a potential game-winning field goal as the clock expired.
“We should have won that game but that’s on us,” Leach said. “We have to do a better job of putting ourselves in position to control our own destiny.”
What worries Stanford coach David Shaw, whose team was limited to 29 yards rushing in last week’s loss, is how prolific Washington State has become running the ball.
The Cougars rushed for 280 yards and scored six times on the ground in a 51-33 victory over Oregon, and Falk passed for 371.
“Mike Leach will attack scheme and personnel,” Shaw said. “He doesn’t care if Richard Sherman is out there. The conflict he puts you in, with this Air Raid passing attack and now a run game, it keeps you honest. You can’t play soft coverage; you have to account for the running game.”
Other things to know as Stanford prepares to host Washington State:
FANTASTIC FALK: Falk is the FBS’ active career leader in passing yards per game at 360.0. He’s already thrown for 1,495 yards and 12 touchdowns and is fourth nationally with a 373.8 yards per game average.
“Falk does a good job of handling things when the situation is not perfect,” Shaw said. “He slides to the soft spot and throws downfield. He has a strong arm and is very accurate.”
STILL WATCHING McCAFFREY: McCaffrey rushed for 49 yards on 12 carries against Washington last week but he still remains one of the most dangerous players with a ball in his hands. He leads the country with 214.5 all-purpose yards per game.
“Those offensive linemen at Stanford have a big role in making him as good as he is,” Leach said. “I think he’s good anyway. You can see that in his versatility. He’s a factor in returns and catches the ball out of the backfield.”
BY THE NUMBERS: Washington State has two consecutive games of 200 or more yards rushing for the first time in 11 years. … Stanford has won 48 of 54 games played at home since 2008. … The Cougars have not beaten a top 15 team since 2003. … The Cardinal have averaged 34.1 points in games following a loss under Shaw.
AP college football website: http://www.collegefootball.ap.org
Source: USA Today Fan Sports Poll