First look: Colorado at Washington State
Time: 1 p.m. Saturday, Martin Stadium
Records: WSU (2-1, 0-0 in Pac-12); Colorado (0-3, 0-0)
Last week: WSU defeated UNLV, 35-27; Colorado lost to Fresno State, 69-14
Last year: WSU defeated Colorado in Boulder, 31-27
The line: WSU by 18.5
What it means for WSU: It’d be hard to imagine a softer landing for Mike Leach in his first game against a Pac-12 opponent as the Cougars’ coach. Not only is it a home game, but it comes against a Buffaloes squad that, so far, has played like one of the worst teams in the country. But the Cougars haven’t played particularly well in two wins over weaker opponents the past two weeks, and will surely look to piece together the complete performance Leach has been searching for. WSU has scored just seven points in the second halves of its first three games, and has struggled to create separation late in games when given the chance. That must be corrected if the Cougars wish to beat teams better than UNLV.
What it means for Colorado: Colorado lost each of its nonconference games, including a 30-28 setback against Sacramento State of the Big Sky, and a 69-14 loss to Fresno State last week in which the Buffaloes trailed 35-0 at the end of the first quarter and 55-0 before they scored in the second quarter. They are, at this juncture, a laughingstock. They rank 113th in the nation in total offense (out of 120 teams listed) and 106th in total defense, and some are already questioning whether coach Jon Embree should be removed. The Buffaloes desperately need a respectable showing, if not a win, to stem an endless tide of criticism in Boulder.
Key matchup: Connor Halliday/Jeff Tuel vs. Colorado’s secondary.
We likely won’t know the identity of WSU’s starting quarterback until the day of the game, but their task will be the same regardless of who it is – continue to make the Buffaloes’ defensive backs chase receivers all over the place. CU ranks 104th in the country in pass defense, and the Buffs start a freshman and a sophomore at their two cornerback positions (and list two freshmen and a sophomore as backups). WSU had its passing game clicking a little better last week than in two previous games. The next step is to put together consistent production for a full 60 minutes, something other teams have had no trouble accomplishing against the Buffaloes’ inexperienced secondary.