Winning the line of scrimmage will be crucial against Stanford

Washington State is facing an injured and young offensive line in Palo Alto, Calif. on Saturday. The Cougs need to take advantage and create chaos in Stanford’s backfield if they’re going to pick up their first win over Stanford since 2007.

Throughout Stanford’s blowout loss to No. 5 Washington, Ryan Bruns was constantly under pressure and was unable to progress through his reads; this often led to plays getting blown up, which prevented the Cardinal from moving the football down the field. Stanford’s offensive line struggled to keep their quarterback upright as Bruns was sacked eight times in the loss. Washington’s ability to get into the backfield was disruptive to Stanford’s rushing attack — the Cardinal averaged one yard per carry, as a team.

As a result of Washington’s aggressive front seven, Heisman hopeful Christian McCaffery looked downright pedestrian in the blowout loss to Washington — he averaged 4.1 yards per carry on 12 carries. Without McCaffery being able to get into space, Stanford’s offense suffered.

If WSU is going to pick up its third straight win (and second straight in conference), the Cougars are going to need to generate pressure to disrupt Stanford’s timing. The front seven’s ability to get into the backfield is going to be critical for the defense in this game. Unfortunately for Washington State, the front seven has struggled to generate consistent pressure throughout the first four games of the season; while the front seven played better against Oregon, it’s still an area of concern heading into this game.

Offensively, the Cougars are coming off of an explosive game where they ran for 280 yards against an atrocious Oregon front seven. The Cardinal bring a healthier front seven into Saturday’s match-up, so WSU shouldn’t have the huge holes and gaps to run through that it had last week. But the effectiveness of the running game is going to be extremely important.

The big news for Washington State, however, is that the Cardinal are missing their two starting corner backs. If quarterback Luke Falk can make decisions as quickly as he did against Oregon, the Air Raid should be able to move the ball quickly against the weakened Stanford secondary. Receivers Gabe Marks and Traveres Martin Jr should have a field day, as long as the Cougar’s offensive line can give Falk time to find his wide outs down field.

Prediction

Washington State 38

Stanford 35

The Cougars rushing attack isn’t efficient, but it gets the job done, and Luke Falk is lights out against an injured Cardinal secondary. Eric Powell earns redemption for 2015’s missed game winning field goal.

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