Dwindling bowl hopes have both teams in desperate need for a win as the Stanford Cardinal face the Washington State Cougars in a Pac-12 North showdown. Game time is set for 4:30 EST on Saturday, November 16 at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Washington. Fans can find the game on the Pac-12 Network.
If we check the Week 12 college football odds, the Cougars are 10.5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 63.5 points.
Stanford’s streak of 10 consecutive years in a bowl game is in serious jeopardy of ending. The Cardinal appeared to be in good shape after an upset win over Washington last month. However, Stanford has lost two of three games since then, including a heartbreaker to Colorado last week on a last-second field goal.
At 4-5, the Cardinal needs two wins over their final three games to become bowl eligible. Unfortunately, Stanford is set to host Notre Dame in their season finale. Since the Cardinal can’t assume that they’ll be able to pull an upset over the Fighting Irish, this week’s game against Washington State and next week’s rivalry game with Cal are both must-win games for the Cardinal.
Washington State, meanwhile, only has a streak of four consecutive bowl games. However, it would be a massive letdown for the Cougars to not qualify for a bowl game after last year’s 11-2 campaign. Since starting the season 3-0, Mike Leach’s team has lost five of their last six games. For what it’s worth, three of those losses have come by four points or less.
Nevertheless, the Cougars are 4-5 and sit in last place in the Pac-12 North with a 1-5 record in league play. As usual, the Cougars finish the season with in-state rival Washington, which is easily the most difficult game left on WSU’s schedule. That likely means that Washington State will have to hold serve at home against both Stanford and Oregon State the next two weeks if they hope to play in a bowl game.
The upside for the Cougars is that they’ve beaten Stanford in three consecutive seasons. The Cardinal, to their credit, won eight in a row against Wazzou from 2008 to 2015. But Washington State has turned the tide with three straight wins over the Cardinal. Of course, it’s worth noting that the game has been decided by just a field goal in each of the last two meetings.
Knowing how explosive the Washington State offense is most weeks makes it tempting to eat the points. But it’s also hard to justify a team with one win in their last six games being a double-digit favorite. Stanford, of course, has been equally inconsistent and frustrating this season. But with their backs against the wall, I think the Cardinal can find a way to keep this game close and at least beat the spread.
My biggest concern with laying down the points in this game is the Washington State defense. Outside of the game they only allowed 10 points against a sluggish Colorado offense, the Cougars have conceded at least 33 points in all of their Pac-12 games this season. In fairness, only two of those games have been at home, including the Colorado game. But I still have questions about the WSU defense, and if they don’t have a decent game, it’ll be tough for the Cougars to cover 10.5 points.
Last week’s loss to Cal was easily the most distressing for Washington State defense. Cal might be the worst offensive team in the Pac-12, yet the Golden Bears put up 33 points against the Cougars with a backup quarterback. I can’t trust any defense that allows the Cal offense to score 30-plus points.
Granted, the Stanford offense hasn’t been that much better than Cal’s offense this year. The Cardinal has been held to 17 points or less in four of their nine games this year. However, Stanford has had some success against the weaker defensive teams in the Pac-12. Washington State definitely fits that description.
Unfortunately for Stanford, starting quarterback K.J. Costello is doubtful to play due to injury. But Davis Mills is back from injury and will start in his place. Mills led the Cardinal to wins over Washington and Oregon State and played at a high level in those games, so Stanford is in good hands.
On the other side of the ball, I’ll give Stanford the benefit of the doubt when it comes to slowing down the Washington State offense. They aren’t going to stop the Cougars, but they should be able to slow them down a little. Washington State’s running game was stopped in its tracks against Cal last week, which is something Stanford might be able to replicate. Also, WSU quarterback Anthony Gordon has been a little more turnover-prone than Gardner Minshew was last year, which is another way the Cardinal can slow down the Wazzou offense just a little.
Ultimately, covering a double-digit spread against a team with an identical record usually requires a good performance on both sides of the ball. I don’t trust the Washington State defense enough to hold up their end of the bargain, especially knowing how well Mills has played when he’s gotten a chance this season. I don’t know if Stanford will win, but I think the Cardinal will at least beat the 10.5-point spread.