WSU will beat Stanford

Beau Baily | Evergreen columnist

I cannot describe the emotions I felt after the Cal game.

They were somewhat maniacal — Laughter at the naivety of fans who expected that last second field goal to go in. Those fans obviously haven’t been watching Cougar football very long. Proud — for the historical day the offense had. Sadness for the poor kicker who missed said field goal. Some people feel sad for the homeless, or when their pets that die. I feel sad for kickers.

I felt angry at the defense and special teams. I can’t even begin to decipher what went wrong there. Does Sulaiman Hameed make that big of a difference? I felt embarrassed for everyone that got a text from their friends at other schools who claimed we, “Coug’d it.” I felt depressed for myself who has seen that outcome maybe 50 times too many.

Now it’s on to Stanford, and thank God the game is on a Friday, which will allow for a chance for everyone to get the bitter taste out of our mouths. That’s the good news. The bad?

The game is on ESPN. Since Mike Leach has taken over, the Cougs have been on ESPN or an ESPN affiliate 11 times. They are 1-10 in those games. The only win coming in 2012 against lowly UNLV.

Although interesting, that stat has nothing to do with the actual game itself. The Cougars are going to get the win, get to 3-4, and fans are going to be able to wake up on Saturday and watch a whole day of college football already knowing their team beat a top-25 opponent.

Simply put — Cal is a better football team than Stanford right now. Like UW, who is notorious for doing less with more, Cal has always recruited talented players that for whatever reason don’t play to their full potential. Last year it was because of injuries and a coaching change. By last weekend, their players were healthy and the system was in place.

The Cougars match up better with Stanford, a running based team. The Cougs last trip to Palo Alto resulted in a 24-17 loss, most likely because their stadium is a mausoleum. That was when they were 12-2 and finished No. 8 in the country. This year the Cardinal is 3-2 and probably won’t finish outside the top 25.

The Cardinal, for its reputation as a jam-it-down-your-throat, run-based team is just 89th in the country in rushing yards per game, according to ESPN. Quarterback Kevin Hogan has dropped back to pass just 136 times this year, the 73rd most in the country.

With WSU’s front seven consisting of juniors and seniors, the emergence of Jeremiah Allison, and their performance in five out of the six games this year, I expect to dream of Allison and company breaking into the Stanford backfield all night.

The Cougars secondary, although talented, is young and inexperienced. Stanford won’t test them. They are committed to their run first offense — which is more vanilla than an ice cream cone at Ferdinand’s. They aren’t bigger and stronger than everyone else in the Pac 12 anymore.

On offense, the Cougars face the No. 2 ranked defense in the country. The Cardinal only gives up 107.4 passing yards, and 8.6 points per game. But these stats are extremely misleading; because of the teams they’ve played.

Look at the University of Washington, who Stanford beat two weeks ago. They possess the nation’s 113th ranked passing attack with just 813 yards on the season, and they’re 4-1. Notre Dame beat the Cardinal last week, with just the 49th ranked passing attack. USC also knocked off Stanford, and they are just 40th in passing.

In short, Stanford hasn’t played anyone who can throw yet.

WSU can throw. Connor Halliday leads the country in virtually every passing category this season, and as a team, the Cougs are number one in the country, throwing for 750 yards more than the next closest team, Texas A&M.

Some might say because this is because the Cougars notoriously throw it more than any other team in the country by a significant margin. True, but the teams 67.9 percent completion percentage is the 11th best in the country.

Special teams could be a concern. The Cardinal have one of the best returners in the country in Ty Montgomery, and the Cougars have given up three special touchdowns in the last two games. I don’t think a coaching change will change that, but the eagerness to prove themselves as players will. Montgomery won’t be an issue.

It’s going to be this kind of a season for the Cougars. They have too much youth to consistently win, and too much talent to post a terrible record. There will be highs and lows. This Friday will be a high, as the Cougs punch the first nail in the coffin of Stanford’s bowl hopes.