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Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Stanford questions worth asking

By Kevin Gemmell

A few questions bouncing around my melon heading into Saturday's game.

Will Saturday be a shootout? Two of the Pac-12's top offenses will be on display at Martin Stadium. The Cardinal average 46.2 points per game while Washington State averages 40.6. However, Stanford presents the toughest defense Wazzu has seen so far this season and has held opponents scoreless in 12 of 20 quarters.

Lessons learned from Arizona? This is will be the second time Stanford has seen a spread-centric team this season -- Arizona being the first. In that game the secondary held Nick Foles to just 239 yards passing in probably their strongest game of the season. Saturday, they face back-up-turned-solid-performer Marshall Lobbestael, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder who has thrown for 1,570 yards, 15 touchdowns, four interceptions and has completed 64.8 percent of his passes. The Cardinal secondary has given up a lot of yards, but that's also a product of some big leads and teams being unable to run the ball. Expect Washington State (56 percent pass, 44 percent run) to try and run the ball more than Arizona did -- at least early on.

Will Luck continue to stay clean? His offensive line has done a fantastic job to date keeping No. 12 upright. Part of that is the scheme, part of it is Luck's ability to extend plays, and part of it is the offensive line simply getting better every week. Colorado presented some of the toughest pass rushers Stanford had seen to date. But they were turned away without a sack. Washington State is pretty good as well with 11 sacks on the year.

Are the wide receivers trending up? We saw more wide receivers get involved in the mix against Colorado. Griff Whalen had a breakout game. Corey Gatewood got involved with an (unsuccessful) end-around and also caught a ball for 22 yards. Jamal-Rashad Patterson picked up a pass from Brett Nottingham in the fourth quarter. Stanford is already a diverse offense. If they can keep adding that, they will be that much tougher for teams to scheme against.

Does bowl eligibility mean anything this early? It might not seem like a big deal given the team and the expectations they have this year. But Stanford fans don't have to go back too far (cough, 20006) to remember when even getting to a bowl (cough, 2007) was a big deal (cough, 2008). After seven consecutive years without postseason football, the Cardinal are on the verge of becoming bowl eligible for the third-straight year.