The Cougars are still looking for their first conference win and face a tall task in playing the Cardinal on the road, but hope that their wide open passing game can spread out Stanford and turn the game into a shootout.
The bye week may have been the most enjoyable week of the season for Cougar fans so this year with the way things have gone in 2012.
Already more than halfway through their schedule, the Cougars are without a Pac-12 win and don't have a game remaining where they will likely be favored. The Cougars face the toughest of those remaining games this week as they travel to Palo Alto to play Stanford.
There probably isn't a team in the conference that is less like the Cougars than the Cardinal as Stanford looks to overpower their opponents methodically with their size and strength and the Cougars hope to spread the field and beat teams deep. While this isn't a great matchup for Washington State, the Cougars hope that their quick strike - spread passing game can frustrate the Cardinal much in the way that Arizona's did just a few weeks back. The Wildcats were nearly able to beat the Cardinal by spreading the ball around quickly to a number of receivers, much in the way that the Cougars will hope to, and the Cougars will need to just that if they hope to make a game of it.
The main problem that the Cougars will face in doing this though is keeping the nasty Stanford front seven away from their quarterback. The Cardinal are one of the best teams in the conference at getting to quarterbacks and the Cougars one of the worst in protecting theirs. The Cougars will need to protect Tuel and hit some running plays to keep the Cardinal honest if they have any hopes of making it a game.
The Cougars face a tough task on defense as their beleaguered run defense hopes to slow one of the biggest and best rushing attacks in the conference. The Cougars will likely have to stack the box and dare Josh Nunes to beat them with the pass if they hope to have any success stopping the Cardinal offense. A good sign for the Cougars though is that the Washington run defense, which is the only one that is statistically worse than them in the Pac-12, was able to do this and capitalize on the predictable schemes and play calling of the Cardinal.
The Cougars are obviously a team that is looking for any kind of spark to brighten up their dreary 2012 season, and going on the road and challenging a ranked Stanford team could do just that. With an extra week to prepare for the ultra-predictable Stanford offense and to get their spread offense in sync, this is probably the Cougars last chance to make some noise with an upset of a top team and they will have to come out swinging if they hope to do that. Stanford's steady pace and limited passing game makes them a very beatable team if you can get ahead of them and put up points, so this game will likely be on Mike Leach and Tuel to get some points on the board and see if they can lure the Cardinal into a shootout.