Every logical sign pointed to Washington State taking a pretty big step back last year, from a completely rebuilding offense, a death of a player, half of the coaching staff leaving, and rumors that HC Mike Leach briefly had agreed to leave the program as well, but grad transfer Garden Minshew at QB and a few lucky breaks led the Cougars to somehow improve and win 11 games for this first time in program history.
Minshew is gone, but most of the offense that was around him returns. Improving on 11 wins will be tough, but this should be a good team once again.
After the Gardner Minshew experiment worked out so well, Mike Leach decided to bring in another grad transfer at QB, this time from FCS powerhouse Eastern Washington in 2x Payton Award Finalist (the FCS version of the Heisman) Gage Gubrud. Gubrud isn’t an entirely perfect fit for Leach’s scheme, but he is extraordinarily talented and had an incredible track record at EWU.
The top three receivers from last year are back, and while RB James Williams is gone, his backup, Max Broghi, was actually more impressive the few times Washington State ran the ball. On the line. four starters are back and they add JUCO transfer Robert Valencia at guard. If Gubrud lives up to expectations this offense could improve.
Washington State had an up and down year on defense, but on the whole, the group took a pretty big step back, although it still outpaced every pre-2017 Leach defense.
Eight of the top 11 tacklers from last year return and they bring back the awesome duo of Willie Taylor and Dominick Silvels at the OLB spots (combined 8.5 sacks, 6.5 TFL). End Will Rodgers (four sacks, 3.5 TFL) was impressive in pass rush as well, and they bring in a West Virginia transfer at NT, Lamonte McDougle, to start in the middle.
The secondary brings back three starters that combined for 15 PBUs and adds a pair of exciting JUCO transfers between corner Daniel Isom and safety Bryce Beekman. I think the defense improves.
My model calls for regression to the mean after a season where they wildly overachieved on expectations, but I feel pretty good about this team.
The schedule is tough, with all six games away from home against teams that went bowling last year. They won’t match last year’s 11-win mark, but I think they could overachieve the model’s 7-5 regular season projection despite the really tough schedule.
|New Mexico State
|vs. Houston (HOuston, tx)
|at Arizona State
Average Projected Record: 6.8 wins, 5.2 losses (4.2 wins, 4.8 losses)