Today marks 23 days from the fateful day of September 2nd, the opening Saturday of college football. Most fall camps started up last Monday and teams are slowly but surely getting ready for the season. Over these next few weeks, the team at TWT are going to do a breakdown of each of the teams in our preseason top 25. Today, we are doing #25, Washington State.
Record: 8-5 (7-2 in Pac 12, lost in Holiday Bowl to Minnesota)
Last year for Wazzu had its fair share of ups and downs, to say the least. The team opened the year with a couple of hard to swallow, close losses. But as the offense started playing up to their potential, the Cougars caught fire, winning eight in a row. The offense was unstoppable over this stretch, scoring an incredible 46.6 points per game in those eight. But once they hit the end of their back loaded schedule, they lost to the two top teams in the conference, Washington, and Colorado. They were then sent to the Holiday Bowl and finished their season with an ugly 17-12 loss. But yes, Coach Ken, WSU football trajectory is indeed going up.
Passing: Luke Falk, 4468 yards, 38 TD’s, 11 INT
Receiving: Tavares Martin Jr, 728 yards, 7 TD’s
Rushing: Jamal Morrow, 575 yards, 5 TD’s
Tackles: Peyton Pelluer, 93 tackles
Sacks: Hercules Mata’afa, 5 Sacks
Interceptions: Marcellus Pippins, 2 INT
Luke Falk will undoubtedly be the center of this air raid offense next year. He was second in the nation with his 70% completion percentage and was also top five in passing yards, and top ten in passing touchdowns. He will have help with an offensive line that has four upperclassmen and a running back group that returns two 450 yard rushers that will split carries. The offense will be fine, but the defense returns a whole lot of production too. The top two tacklers, as well as five of six tackles-for-loss leaders, return this year, but they will trot out a young secondary, which could hurt them against USC, Washington, and other teams with great passing attacks.
BIGGEST STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS
Wazzu’s biggest strength this year should be their passing game. I already hit on Luke Falk’s numbers, but he is sure to improve on those in Mike Leach’s system. Leach has produced seven seasons with 4500 yard passers and four 5000 yard seasons, and in Falk’s third season in this system, he will look to put up big numbers. If he can close out a few big games, he will come up in many Heisman talks in November. Pro Football Focus illustrated his incredible accuracy with this tweet.
One glaring weakness of this team will be their secondary. They only have four upperclassmen Defensive Backs that played significant snaps last year, and those that come back didn’t exactly light it up. They finished an awful 112th in the nation last year in passing yards allowed per game, and didn’t add any significant recruits or transfers in the secondary to change that. Elite Quarterbacks will light them up through the air, and that could lead to quite a few dangerous games.
Week 1: Win vs Montana State
Washington State will win this game easily. Montana State just isn’t good enough to compete.
Week 2: Win vs Boise State
These two teams should come into the year with very similar skill and talent levels. But the difference in this game will be Falk. He will light it up against an inferior group of five defense, and maybe even orchestrate a late game drive for the Cougs.
Week 3: Win vs Oregon State
Oregon State doesn’t have the pass rush to pressure Falk or the run defense to beat Washington State. This match up is also favorable for WSU because OSU is an awful passing team, so the rush defense of Washington St will be able to flex their muscles a little by loading the box with seven or eight with no fear.
Week 4: Win vs Nevada
Nevada is one of those group of five teams that just isn’t very good. No matter how this season goes for the Cougars, this one will almost assuredly be a cake walk.
Week 5: Loss vs USC
USC is returning one of the best teams in the nation, and they will run through most of their opponents. Washington State is just another stop for them on their way to a possible playoff berth.
Week 6: Loss at Oregon
Oregon’s offensive line will be one of the best in the country as they have a combined 69 starts between their starting five. This will hold back Washington State’s defensive line enough to generate a good rushing attack for Oregon, and the Ducks win in a shootout.
Week 7: Win @ California
Cal simply doesn’t have any of the defensive pieces to stop WSU. It will be high scoring, but the Cougars will win fairly easily.
Week 8: Win vs Colorado
This will be a close one, but in the end, Colorado will not be able to score enough points. The Cougars should pull away late in this one and win by one or two touchdowns and score late against a tired Buffs defense.
Week 9: Win vs Arizona
Arizona is a difficult team to predict because of their lack of consistency, but their streaky offense and bad defense won’t be enough to beat a Washington State team in full late season form.
Week 10: Loss vs Stanford
Washington State has gone nine weeks at this point without a bye week, and they line up against a smash mouth Stanford team. This is not a very good combination for the Cougars. Stanford with an offensive line that has 68 combined starts and a hit-you-in-the-mouth type mentality with physically dominate this game.
Week 11: Loss @ Utah
This game would be a very different game if played week 4 or 5. But at this point, the Cougars offense will almost certainly not be at its best considering they are playing in their eleventh game in eleven weeks. That, combined with Utah’s 14-8 record in one possession games over the past three years leads to a loss for Wazzu.
Week 12: Bye
I can give a 100% guarantee that Washington State will not lose the week of November 18th.
Week 13: Loss @ Washington
Last year, the only teams that could stop Washington were the elite defenses. They averaged just 10 points per game against USC and Alabama, but 47.1 points in all other games. Washington State is not an elite defense. They will get run over
Projected Record: 7-5
Washington State will once again have a good but not great type season with eye popping offensive numbers and disappointing defensive numbers. The back end of their schedule once again lines up to be tough for them, losing their last three in this predictions.
INSTANT IMPACT RECRUIT(S)
Seeing as the top recruits from this last class were both at positions of strength, the best chance for a breakout newcomer is Preston Hendry. He is a JUCO defensive lineman transfer that has a chance to see early minutes, and the athleticism to capitalize on them.
Stay tuned to see the rest of our predictions and rankings!