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Stanford vs. WSU: Inconsistency plagues Cardinal offense

The No. 17 Stanford Cardinal takes on the Washington State Cougars on Saturday, and Stanford fans would be forgiven for not being sure exactly which team is going to show up. Stanford's offense has been fairly inconsistent in 2012, scoring 50 or more points in two of their wins, but struggling to get to 21 points in three other victories. Neither loss the team has posted exceeded 13 points.

SB Nation's Stanford blog Rule of Tree has a detailed breakdown of what's gone on with the offense, splitting things into the good, the awful, and the wierdly inefficient.

They mark six yards per play as the point the Cardinal needs to hit. They're 4-0 when they do so, and 1-2 when they don't. (The sole win being the 20-17 season-opener over the San Jose State Spartans.) Rule of Tree calls back to the 2009 Stanford vs. USC game, and highlights the way the running game closed things off:

This was pretty much the end of each game: the offensive line creating huge holes against tired defensive linemen, with Stepfan Taylor darting through to burn clock. At the time, the clock was more important than the score, and the offense accomplished that goal. (On the other hand, given the pillage the Stanford OL inflicted on each team, not scoring the dagger is a disappointment.)

So what happened? Those two performances suggest that the offense can be pretty functional against good-to-reasonably-good opposing defenses. Well, inefficiency: Jordan Williamson missed two eminently makeable field goals; the offense couldn't convert red zone opportunities; the offense had too many turnovers.

Rule of Tree concludes that switching out Josh Nunes isn't likely to help the offense. The junior has a 53-percent completion percentage on the season, for 1,484 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. The difference is likely to come down to execution: fewer penalties, fewer dropped balls. The full post contains a lot more, so don't miss it.

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