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Conference play heats up in Week 9 for the PAC-12, as the Washington State Cougars visit Palo Alto to play the Stanford Cardinal. There’s more at stake for the loser, who could be booted out entirely as the PAC-12 North representative in the 2018 PAC-12 Championship game in late-November.

Veteran coaches David Shaw and Mike Leach have led their programs to 5-2 and 6-1, respectively, this season. For Stanford, they went through a two-game losing streak, while Washington State hasn’t lost since Week 4.

It’s neither The Big Game nor the Apple Cup, but it’s big news in a conference that has little College Football Playoff contention attached to it. Stanford lost its footing with a loss to Notre Dame, who is now ranked No. 3 in the latest AP Top 25. Washington State, on the other hand, has always been on the outside-looking-in but is gaining notoriety after a Week 8 win against high-tempo Oregon.

Tale Of The 2017 Tape

Washington State 24 – 21 Stanford

Game summary: Despite an episode of snow and near-below freezing temperatures, Stanford managed to get a fourth quarter lead in a game where Washington State controlled the tempo. The toughness of WSU QB Luke Falk made dump-offs and vertical passes look effortless with the help of a clean pocket for a majority of the game.

As for the Cardinal, their passing and running game were not on the same page, even when Arcega-Whiteside was mismatched with Washington State’s 5-foot-10 CB Darrien Molton. At the end of the day, the fourth quarter belonged to Washington State, who kept the ball for 75-percent, if not more, of the time until the clock hit zero.

Stats Summary:  

Both teams finished with 93 rush yards

Stanford offense: Nine 1st downs

Stanford RB Bryce Love: 16 carries, 69 yards, touchdown

WSU QB Luke Falk: 34/48, 337 yards, 3 touchdowns, One interception

5 Important Factors – Washington State at Stanford

Stanford CB Paulson Adebo vs. WSU WR Devontavean Martin

If Paulson Adebo can shut down ASU WR N’Keal Harry, then his chances of limiting Martin’s performance should be a no-brainer, right? Adebo’s under a slight size disadvantage, since Martin’s taller and leaner, but Martin is inconsistent compared to Adebo. It’s hard to tell which flavor Adebo will get – one day Martin has a slow day (5 catches, 30 yards), then follows that up with eight receptions, 119 yards, and two touchdowns.

And while both are only underclassmen, they each play like they are fifth-year seniors. Compared to Adebo’s challenges thus far in 2018, Martin doesn’t rank high up there with N’Keal Harry and Oregon’s Dillon Mitchell.

Stanford’s RZ defense vs. WSU’s RZ offense

According to CFB Stats, Washington State has a very intimidating red zone offense, which converts opportunities over 90-percent of the time. Of their first four scoring drives against Oregon in Week 8, three of those for Washington State happened in the red zone. Stanford, meanwhile, has allowed a 75-percent success rate – enough to be ranked with Penn State and LSU. In Week 6, Stanford kept Utah and its kicker Matt Gay pretty busy and out of the red zone, despite Gay’s 12 points via long-range field goals.

Stanford linebackers vs. WSU QB Gardner Minshew

Led by Bobby Okereke and Sean Barton, Stanford’s corps of experienced linebackers won’t be new territory for East Carolina transfer Gardner Minshew. For a quarterback with four games of 400 yards passing, along with four games of a 70-percent pass completion rate, Okereke and Barton have a serious assignment ahead.

Minshew’s a different breed of PAC-12 quarterback, taking over for Luke Falk, but there’s one weakness: mobility. Minshew enjoys the comforts of the pocket, so if Okereke and Barton can pressure him outside of that comfort zone, then all is serene.

Stanford WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside vs. WSU secondary

At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Arcega-Whiteside has had his share of mismatches. Last year, Washington State’s Darrien Molton and Sean Harper teamed up against No. 19 and managed to win the battle, unless jump balls were involved. Molton and Harper are back for the 2018 match-up, which will have much nicer weather conditions than last years in Pullman.

Stanford pass defense vs. WSU run defense

A lot of Stanford’s success defending the pass comes from cornerbacks Alijah Holder and Paulson Adebo. Along with Frank Buncom and Alameen Murphy, they’ve all allowed, on average, one passing touchdown. The real error is on short gains, but Minshew likes shooting for the stars. As long as Stanford’s pass defense keeps Minshew below 15 first downs and 300 yards – it’s a tall order – then Stanford could knock out the Cougars from PAC-12 Championship title hopes in Week 9.

If there’s one opportunity for Bryce Love to have a big game, then Week 9 is the time for that to happen. After surrendering 139 yards and two touchdowns to Wyoming and 276 yards and five touchdowns to Oregon State, Washington State’s run defense is abysmal. They’ve also allowed 57 first downs by the run, opposed to 54 through the air. The only defensive lineman the Cougars can rely on is 6-foot-3, 249 pounder Logan Tago.

Sports Al Dente 2019

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