Good afternoon and Happy Hump Day, Cougs! Sorry once again for a delayed post this week. For some reason, my employer has decided it's a good idea to send me around to meet with clients so I've been on the road a bit lately and only seem to travel during times when I should be writing about our Cougs. I hope to get back to meeting the standards you've come to expect from me in the very near future. That's not exactly setting the bar very high, but hey, it's all about expectations management. After a much needed bye week to give us a reprieve from a frustrating season, it's time to gear up for the home stretch. Now that the team has been freed from being distracted by the menace that is Twitter, they should also be 100% focused on getting this off-the-rails season back on track. The schedule isn't particularly kind in that regard with a tough Stanford team waiting in their house for the Air Raid to arrive. I've got some thoughts on this game in the form of 7 bold predictions. Why 7? As always, I have no idea.
Bold Prediction #1 - Jeff Tuel will throw for upwards of 334 yards
I went back and forth on this one and almost went with 333, but I really think he can get over that hump. This Bold Prediction actually coincides with the next one...
Bold Prediction #2 - The running game will not work. Like not even a little bit.
This isn't that bold since it's abundantly clear that the Stanford front 7 is significantly better than the offensive line that will be across from them. The running game will get stuff and Tuel will be forced to sling it all over the yard as the only means to move the offense. As such, he'll put up big numbers, but that will only be a good thing if...
Bold Prediction #3 - Jeff Tuel will complete over 60% of his passes and...
Bold Prediction #4 - Jeff Tuel will throw one interception or less.
With a bye week and what appears to be an assertion that he is QB1, I like Tuel's chances to have an extremely efficient performance come Saturday. We would be looking back at his game against Cal much more fondly had it not started with a Halliday debacle and had the Dropsies not severely inflicted the receiving corps. If there is a weakness in the Stanford defense, it would be on the back-end. That's not to say they aren't good because they are, but if the plan is to exploit the Cardinal defensive line and linebackers, a new plan is needed. If (and this is a massive if) Tuel can escape the wrath of Skov, Thomas, Gardner, et. al., he'll have a terrific opportunity to make plays.
Bold Prediction #5 - We'll finally get the shootout we all expected will be the norm this year.
This is not intended to give credit to Josh Nunes. He and I are still fighting after his performance against the Huskies, which looks worse and worse by the week. I'm of the belief that Stanford will score plenty in the same way that Cal did and the same way that they have in recent years. To be more specific...
Bold Prediction #6 - The Stanford rushing attack will average more than 7 yards per carry.
This is a horrifying thought, but unfortunately I don't see a way around it. What really makes this problematic is that it will allow Nunes to succeed in virtually the only way he's capable, which is via the play action game to his tight ends. If there is any way to prevent this from happening, the likes of Cyrus Coen and Eric Oertel will have to play phenomenally well. You may have noticed that the Cougs are pretty stubborn about not playing nickel. It'll be the job of linebackers to keep up with the Stanford tight ends, while somehow also keeping an eye on Stepfan Taylor and others in the backfield. (This is why I expect a lot of points. That is a monumentally difficult task for our young front 7 against what can be a ruthlessly efficient offense when it is going well).
Bold Prediction #7 - The Cougs will at least cover.
I believe the Vegas experts have Stanford somewhere in the neighborhood of 24 point favorites at the moment. As poorly as this season has gone at times, I don't think we'll be quite that bad and from what I've seen of Stanford, they've never looked quite that good. The risk here is that they've looked their best at home so I may end up looking like an idiot homer, but that is nothing new. I'm at least confident that we won't lose 52-17 (to totally hypothetically throw a score out there).
Will all this add up to a Cougar victory? You'll have to wait until tomorrow to see my score prediction since we run our picks on Thursdays, but also because I really have no idea yet.