Returning to a bowl game
Last season the Cougars made it through one of the nation’s toughest schedules to end a decade-long bowl drought. They’ll have to do it again if they want to follow that drought by building a streak.
The Pac-12 has six teams ranked in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 and the Cougars play all of them except No. 7 UCLA. While WSU does have seven home games, including six in Pullman, they will have to play seemingly close matchups against Oregon State and Utah on the road. WSU has a good chance of sweeping its non-conference slate against Rutgers, Nevada and Portland State. To reach a bowl game, then, the Cougars would only need to win three Pac-12 games.
Sharing the ball
Washington State could once again throw the ball more than 700 times this season and still have trouble spreading the ball around among all the receivers. And, if the Cougars chuck it around that much, they’ll be neglecting a stable of running backs that deserve carries.
The Cougars return their top eight receivers from last season and freshman Calvin Green appears poised to receive a lot of playing time. As proof of depth, Gabe Marks – the team’s best receiver last season – may struggle to see the field after good fall camps from other Z receivers Isiah Myers and Kristoff Williams.
The Cougars are in a similar position at running back. Last year’s starter Marcus Mason led the team in offensive yards gained, but Theron West catapulted to the top of the depth chart in the spring. Right behind West is a pair of impressive freshmen – Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks.
The youngster factor
On both sides of the ball the Cougars have experienced starters and backups, But the offensive line and defensive secondary each lost three starters and the replacements are largely untested. The Cougars will start redshirt freshman Cole Madison at right tackle and either Riley Sorenson or Sam Flor, both sophomores, at center.
Good play from the offensive line will be essential to keeping quarterback Connor Halliday healthy. A serious injury would send WSU’s bowl hopes plummeting.
Deone Bucannon’s replacement at strong safety will likely be Darious Lemora, unless sophomore Isaac Dotson is healthy. Cornerback Daquawn Brown had a good freshman campaign last season, but it will be tough to match Damante Horton’s senior season that included three interceptions for touchdowns.
The young defensive backs have a lot of pressure to perform above their age in the pass-happy conference that returns 10 starting quarterbacks.