Washington State Football is finally getting respect with the third-best odds to win the Pac-12 to go with an over/under of 8 wins.
Washington State laughed at everyone who thought this team wasn’t built for longevity and couldn’t win consistently with a new quarterback. The Cougars took their 6.5-win over/under and racked up an 11-2 record with a bowl win over Iowa State.
QB a Big Question Mark
Similar to last year, Washington State has to work in a new quarterback and he was still unknown following spring practices. Eastern Washington grad transfer Gage Gubrud is the likely candidate, but he didn’t play in the spring due to injury, while unknowns Anthony Gordon and Trey Tinsley saw most of the action under center.
The downside to Gubrud is that he’s unfamiliar with the Air Raid, something Gardner Minshew didn’t have a problem with last year.
At the least, the help around quarterback is plentiful. The line returns four starters with the fifth guy being a sixth-year senior in Robert Valencia, who started last year’s bowl game.
Receiver is also stocked with returning talent led by Dezmon Patmon (816 yards, 5 TDs), Davontavean Martin (685 yards, 8 TDs), Easop Winston (654 yards, 8 TDs) and Jamire Calvin.
The main question is who complements Max Borghi (366 rushing yards, 53 receptions, 12 total TDs) at running back with a couple inexperienced players behind him.
Defense Remains Strong
To help Wazzu stay near the top of the standings, it returns defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, after allowing just 23.1 points per game last year. Enough starters return to make this group just as good, especially with WVU transfer Lamonte McDougle stepping into an open spot at nose tackle.
They lost their stud linebacker, but Justus Rogers and Dillon Sherman both have starting experience and Jahad Woods is still there.
Even better, the five-man secondary is filled with upperclassmen, led by safety Jalen Thompson. There’s enough talent and experience around him with corner Marcus Strong still in the mix, that the defense should be stout again.
Expect Less Wins Than a Year Ago
However, getting to the Pac-12 title game won’t be easy with a more difficult schedule. In addition to traveling to Houston in the non-conference slate, the Cougars have road games at Utah, ASU, Oregon and Washington.
That’s a recipe for at least three losses in Pac-12 play. In addition to playing an extra road game, they also have a harder schedule. That means Wazzu will need to win every home game and that’s still only six wins.
Gubrud could be an awesome quarterback and the defense could be just as good, yet this team could still lose one or two more games than last year. Expecting the Pac-12 title game is a stretch with eight or nine wins a good projection, mostly because of the difficult road schedule that includes a trip to their in-state rival.
Then again, doubting Mike Leach and this team the last few seasons hasn’t been a good betting strategy.
2019 Washington State Cougars Football Schedule
Aug. 31 vs. New Mexico State
Sept. 7 vs. Northern Colorado
Sept. 13 at Houston (NRG Stadium, Houston)
Sept. 21 vs. UCLA
Sept. 28 at Utah
Oct. 12 at Arizona State
Oct. 19 vs. Colorado
Oct. 26 at Oregon
Nov. 9 at California
Nov. 16 vs. Stanford
Nov. 23 vs. Oregon State
Nov. 29 at Washington