If the Washington State Cougars could beat an FCS team at the beginning of the season, they just might put together the best record in school history. For the second straight season the Cougs lost to a lower level club and still managed to win eight games while contending for the Pac-12 North title until the end. Two years ago the Cougars were beaten by Portland State and fell a win shy of tying the school record for victories. Competing in the Pac-12 is what counts, though, and under Mike Leach Wazzou has definitely done that, and should be in contention again.
2016 Record: 8-5 SU, 6-7 ATS, 7-5 O/U
2017 Regular Season Win Total: 7.5
National Championship Odds: +10000
Odds To Win Pac-12: +1500
Behind Leach’s Air Raid attack the Cougars produced eight wins, giving them back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the early 2000s. It didn’t start off so well, though. A season-opening loss to FCS Eastern Washington was a stunner for a team that had won nine games the year before. A narrow loss to Boise State had the Cougars at 0-2. Similar to 2015 when the Cougs lost their opener to Portland State and proceeded to win eight of their next 10, they rattled off eight straight victories after the BSU contest.
Luke Falk had another banner year running the show. He led all FBS quarterbacks with 633 pass attempts and 443 completions amassing 4,468 yards and 38 touchdowns. The Air Raid attack needs a QB who is accurate, tough and can scramble. Falk fits the bill and Wazzou ranked third nationally in passing offense.
The passing game doesn’t always work and the Cougars were in dire straits when Falk wasn’t connecting. He completed less than 50 percent of his throws in a loss to Colorado, had just 269 passing yards in a loss to Washington and 264 in a bowl loss to Minnesota. Wazzou was so dependent on the pass that the run became nearly obsolete and opposing defenses adjusted.
Leach isn’t going to change what he does best and the Cougars will again toss the ball all over the yard. Falk has the offense down after three years in the program and will look for more than a nine-win season and a mid-level bowl game. The top two receivers from last season have moved on and it will take a little more diversity on the offensive side for Wazzou to keep producing, and it has the makings of a potent ground game.
Despite a lack of carries, the backs were productive last season. James Williams and Jamal Morrow each ran for 500 yards giving the Cougars a little bit of balance in their offensive attack and that’s needed even more in 2017. Along with Gerard Wicks, the three returning backs are the best group Leach has had on the Palouse, and combined the trio should better their 1,635 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns from a season ago while still being effective as receivers in the short passing game.
The opening part of the schedule is favorable with five straight home games to open the year, but it only works if the Cougars can take advantage of it. Beating FCS Montana State isn’t a must, as the Cougs have shown us the past two seasons, but a victory would go a long way toward an increased win total. There’s a tough Boise State club among the first four, but the others are winnable, and that would lead to a huge inter-conference showdown with USC in Week 5.
Week 1: Washington State vs. Montana State, Saturday, September 2
Week 2: Washington State vs. Boise State, Saturday, September 9
Week 3: Washington State vs. Oregon State, Saturday, September 16
Week 4: Washington State vs. Nevada, Saturday, September 23
Week 5: Washington State vs. USC, Friday, September 29
Week 6: Washington State at Oregon, Saturday, October 7
Week 7: Washington State at California, Friday, October 13
Week 8: Washington State vs. Colorado, Saturday, October 21
Week 9: Washington State at Arizona, Saturday, October 28
Week 10: Washington State vs. Stanford, Saturday, November 4
Week 11: Washington State at Utah, Saturday, November 11
Week 12: OFF
Week 13: Washington State at Washington, Saturday, November 25
|SEC Conference||Big 10 Conference|
|ACC Conference||Big 12 Conference|
|Pac 12 Conference||Big East Conference|
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