WSU Season Preview
The Cougars are nearing fall camp, and since we can nearly smell the season, WSN wanted to break down the season schedule to see what the Cougs are up against. These are just pre-season picks, but give or take a game, the Cougs look to improve in the 2nd year of the Leach system.
August 31st - @ Auburn Tigers
The Tigers are coming off a 3-9 season just like the Cougs and posted their worst SEC record in team history going 0-8. They bring in Gus Malzahn as the head coach who likes to run the no huddle and the high octane offense which is similar to the Cougs. We all know what happened last season with the new offensive system, it takes time to get things going. The difference is that Auburn is still an SEC powerhouse and have 6 pre-season all-americans to the Cougars one in senior safety Deone Bucannon. With Jeff Tuel gone to the NFL it will be tough for the Cougs to go into Jordan-Hare stadium and pull off the win, especially since historically they have struggled in big time Non-Conference road games. The Tigers awful defense last season has been overhauled and could mean trouble. The Cougs played at Auburn in 2006, after leading in the second quarter, the Tigers destroyed the Cougars 40-14. The key to this game on the defensive side may be if the secondary can stop the big plays. The Cougs should make it more competitive than last year’s opener against BYU but fall 35-20.
September 7th @ USC Trojans
Another powerhouse team in the Cougars second game of the season. Coach Lane Kiffin is about at the end of his rope after a mediocre 7-6 season for USC standards. The Trojans came into last season with a Heisman favorite in Matt Barkley, and a #1 ranking which was quickly erased when they lost to Stanford in week 3. They will be throwing a new quarterback on the field this season which helps the Cougs but the Coliseum is always a tough place to play for any opponent. The Trojans over/under win total is set and 9.5, which may be hard to achieve, but the Cougs traditionally struggle on the road and will drop this one 45-24 and start the season 0-2
September 14th - Southern Utah Thunderbirds
The Thunderbirds coming off a 5-6 season in the Big Sky with their signature win being a 30-27 win over Eastern Washington. Not a whole lot of scouting reports on this team, but it should be an easy tune up win for the Cougs in their home opener, 52-20 Cougs.
September 21st - Idaho Vandals
The Cougs renew the Battle of the Palouse rivalry that stopped in 2007. The Cougs lead the series 70-18-3. The Cougs lost in ’99 and ’00, but won the last 7 meetings. The Vandals will be in a rebuilding year after going 1-11 in 2012 and letting go of former Coug Staff Rob Akey and dissolving Akey’s army which really couldn’t get any steam going after the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl appearance. This should be another good tune up game for the Cougs before they get in to heavy conference play and face the always tough Stanford Cardinal. The Cougs will come away with the big win 49- 10.
September 28th- Stanford Cardinal (@ Centruylink Field, Seattle)
Stanford finished last season on fire after switching quarterbacks mid season and finished in the top 10. They will again be a top 10 team to start the season, but Stanford doesn’t strike me as a team that can come in like an Oregon or USC and handle teams week in and week out. Stanford’s offense was 84th last season, so definitely not going to put up the big numbers of most top 10 teams. Their big running back Stefan Taylor is no longer there, so by this game they will still be getting their offense going. Their defense is stacked but with the Cougars offense and no huddle looks, it could cause some problems for Stanford. I know the Cougs defense is a huge question this year, but if the Cougs can put up 30, I think they could upset the Cardinal. I am going to go out on a limb (and probably get criticized) but I see the Cougs taking this one 27-24 in front of a rowdy crowd at Century Link Field.
October 5th@ Cal Bears
Always unpredictable Cal comes into this season with a new head coach in Sonny Dykes who replaces Jeff Tedford after 11 seasons with the program. The quarterback is a question mark for this team as they have to find what fits best with their system. Dykes brings in the “Bear Raid” offense, so hard to stop and hard to learn like the system that Leach runs. The cougar killer from last season Keenan Allen, went to the NFL, so the Cougs have a break in that aspect. The overriding problem with the Cougs has been their inability to win on the road. I don’t think the Cougs will have enough defense for both the running and passing game of Cal. The Cougs drop this one 30-20 to the new look bears.
October 12th Oregon State Beavers
The Beavers return their high flying receiver Brandin Cooks from last season. The issue with the Beavs is at the quarterback position. Junior Sean Mannion who led the Beavs to start last season before he was injured, and senior Cody Vaz who looked good in spurts for the Beavs. The Cougs held the Beavers to 19 points in Corvallis last season, so I look for a similar performance out of the Beavers offense. Look for the Cougs to catch fire in this game and take control. The Cougs should cruise in Pullman, 31-20 Cougs.
October 19th @ Oregon Ducks
The Ducks return Sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota and De’anthony Thomas for another National Championship run. We all know how tough it is to go into Autzen Stadium and pull out a win. The Cougs are a few years out on being able to score with the likes of the Ducks. Cougs fall in this one 49-24.
October 31st Arizona State Sundevils
The dreaded Thursday night game that the Pac-12 has employed for all teams. This one coming on Halloween night. Arizona State’s offense has had their way against the Cougs defense last year before the Apple Cup. Arizona State is returning their quarterback in Taylor Kelly and both running backs. They return 14 starters from last year’s team. The Cougs advantage in this one is the weather. It will be a night game and it should be plenty cold to slow down the Arizona State Offense. This one will be close, and this is a huge game for the Cougs in their bowl hopes. Leach will have the team prepared coming of the bye week and pull off the upset 31-27
November 16th @ Arizona Wildcats
The Wildcats return their pre-season All-American in Ka’Deem Karey. They also add former USC QB in Jesse Scroggins who could be a huge addition to the team. This team will have no shortage of offense and pose huge problems for the Cougs in the desert. The wildcats are going to have their way with the Cougs in this one 41-24.
November 23rd Utah Utes
The Utes return sophomore QB Travis Wilson who started the last 7 games of the ’12 season, and should be improving and a lack luster season last year. The Utes lost a few big names, but by the end of November they should have things running well. The Utes are familiar with the cold weather and beat the Cougs in an overtime thriller in a snow bowl in 2011. The Cougs are again going to use the home field to their advantage and clinch their first bowl game in 10 years.
November 29th @ Washington Huskies
As much as I hate to do this, it comes down to the Cougs troubles on the road, and more importantly their problems winning in Seattle in the Apple Cup. You always hear how you throw the record books out in the Apple Cup, but not when the play in Seattle. Since ’87 the Cougs are 3 and 10, and this doesn’t appear to be the Cougs year as far as the Apple Cup. In a perfect World, the Cougs beat the Huskies, knock them out of bowl contention and dance on the enemy turf in Montlake. Unfortunately with the Huskies returning players Price, Jenkins, and Williams, the Dawgs will be too much for the Cougs in the newly renovated Husky Stadium. The Huskies pull away in this one 28-24.
The Cougs are moving in the right direction, and a bowl season will be perfect stop in their rise to the top. Is 6-6 a sucess for Leach? What do you think?