There is a common thread surrounding Washington State that the days of them competing near the top of the Pac-12 standings are over. With Oregon expected to take another leap this season, the Cougars are far behind the top teams in the North division with +3500 odds (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) to win the conference, only above Colorado and Oregon State. The disrespect for this team over the last few years is glaring, although there’s no denying it has plenty of holes to fill, the first one being at quarterback.
Without last year’s top two passers, the Air Raid has to turn to a completely new quarterback with that likely being from a transfer. JUCO guys Trey Tinsley and Anthony Gordon competed in the spring, but East Carolina grad transfer Gardner Minshew and freshman Cammon Cooper are joining in the summer. Either way, the Air Raid is still intact even with a slew of new coaches, namely on the offensive line where they gave up 44 sacks a year ago. Even with three starters gone, it’ll be hard for this group to be worse than 2017, at least in terms of sacks allowed. The skill players will also be a work in progress with James Williams (89 carries, 61 receptions) and Keith Harrington in the backfield and receiver a little more unknown. That said, any decent receiver can work in this offense and Renard Bell (36 rec.), Kyle Sweet (50 rec.) and Dezmon Patmon (31 rec.) will get their chance to shine in bigger roles this season.
The defense surprisingly turned into the better group last season allowing less than 25 points per Game with stout numbers against the rush and pass. Tracy Claeys, formerly of Minnesota, comes over as the new coordinator, but he isn’t expected to change much after last year’s success. Some big names are gone on the line, yet Nnamdi Oguayo and Nick Begg both have experience and could thrive in bigger roles. The linebacking core also lost its best player, but the return of Peyton Pelluer could do wonders to go with improving Jahad Woods and Justus Rogers as redshirt sophomores. It gets better in the secondary after allowing only 167.4 passing yards per Game, as all of the top guys are back from corner Darrien Molton to safety Jalen Thompson. The numbers may not be as good overall for the Cougs, but they shouldn’t drop off much.
The main issue in the Schedule is a road Game at USC. Otherwise, they couldn’t ask for much more with three wins expected from the non-Conference to go with a good portion of winnable road Games (Oregon State, Colorado). If the Cougars can win a couple on the road and then grab another win against Oregon, this team could be headed for around eight wins in the regular season. But that’s asking for a lot, especially since the bookmakers have Wazzu’s over/under at 6.5 wins, mostly due to a new quarterback. If all goes well at quarterback, the over isn’t out of the question, but new quarterbacks are always hard to bet on.
2018 Washington State Cougars Football Schedule
Sept. 1 at Wyoming
Sept. 8 vs. San Jose State
Sept. 15 vs. Eastern Washington
Sept. 21 at USC
Sept. 29 vs. Utah
Oct. 6 at Oregon State
Oct. 20 vs. Oregon
Oct. 27 at Stanford
Nov. 3 vs. California
Nov. 10 at Colorado
Nov. 17 vs. Arizona
Nov. 23 vs. Washington