Stanford Football: What to Watch for Against Washington State

Kevin LeeCorrespondent ISeptember 29, 2013

Stanford Football: What to Watch for Against Washington State

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    Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

    The fifth-ranked Stanford Cardinal (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) take a trip to Seattle to take on the Washington State Cougars (3-1, 1-0 Pac 12) for their first Pac-12 road game.

    Last week, Stanford defeated Arizona State 42-28 to begin its Pac-12 title defense. Now the Cardinal face an unranked Washington State team that is looking to upset one of the premier teams in the nation. The Cougars have lost their past five games against Stanford and are 25-37-1 in the all-time series.

    The Cardinal should be no match for Wazzu, but anything can happen, especially with the hostile environment that Stanford will be playing in. Here are three things to watch in Saturday's game.

Nerves on the Road

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    CenturyLink Field will provide the Cardinal with a tough test on the road. It won't be Stanford's first game away from home, but a game against Army and a game against Washington State can't be compared.

    CenturyLink has not been kind to the Cardinal as of late. Last season, Stanford was upset by the Washington Huskies 17-13 in the same stadium. Now it must avoid another upset in order to keep its national championship aspirations alive. In addition, a forecast filled with rain and wind won't make it any easier for Stanford.

Changing of the (Left) Guard

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    One of the best offensive lines in the nation will be without its starting left guard this week. The Cardinal's David Yankey will miss the game against Wazzu due to a family issue.

    Josh Garnett will replace him as the starting left guard. Garnett, a Washington native, has seen time in the Cardinal's jumbo package. Now making his first start for Stanford in what will surely be a raucous environment, he'll have to be composed and not be the cause of any costly penalties.

    With an extremely windy forecast, Kevin Hogan may have trouble getting Stanford's passing game going. As a result, dominating the line of scrimmage on offense and establishing the running game will be crucial for the Cardinal. 

Stanford Secondary

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    The key to a successful defensive outing for Stanford is finding a way to shut down Wazzu's air raid offense. The Cougars are 16th in the nation in passing offense (328.8 yards per game) and second in the Pac-12. They are only second to Texas Tech in terms of total pass attempts this season.

    Stanford's secondary will be short-handed on Saturday. Backup cornerback Barry Browning will not play and free safety Ed Reynolds is suspended for the first half of the game due to his targeting penalty against Arizona State.

    The Cardinal's passing defense has been average thus far. It ranks eighth in the Pac-12 in passing yards allowed per game and has recorded an interception in each of the three games.

    If Stanford can manage to pressure Washington State's Connor Halliday and keep the Cougars from getting into any sort of rhythm on offense, the Cardinal should win this game handily.