Washington St. at Nevada
When/Where: Friday, 7:30 p.m.; Mackay Stadium, Reno, Nevada
Records: WSU (0-1);
Line: WSU minus 3
Last time: Washington State defeated Nevada 55-21 in Reno (2005)
What it means for WSU: Washington State’s defense needs to catch up to its offense. Quarterback Connor Halliday and his receivers were in fine form during Thursday’s late loss against Rutgers, but the defensive front seven did not perform as well as it should have given its depth and experience. If the Cougars can bounce back defensively against Nevada then it won’t seem like the offense has to play perfectly for WSU to win.
What it means for Nevada: Coach Brian Polian’s first season was far from a success as the Wolf Pack won just four games, ending a streak of eight consecutive bowl game appearances for Nevada. A close win against Southern Utah in Week One doesn’t inspire confidence that Polian’s second year will be much better, but a 2-0 start with a win over a Pac-12 team would mean the Wolf Pack were clearly on the road back to respectability.
Key matchup: WSU’s linebackers vs. Cody Fajardo’s legs.
Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo can beat teams through the air, but it’s when he does damage on the ground that the Wolf Pack offense becomes really tough to stop. His freshman year he looked like a natural successor to Colin Kaepernick in then-coach Chris Ault’s pistol offense, but defenses have keyed in on the rushing quarterback and years of hits have taken their toll. Still, he averaged more than 6 yards per carry last season and rushed for 68 yards against SUU. The Cougars linebackers struggled to stop the run against Rutgers, and if they aren’t able to keep track of Fajardo a win will be tough to come by.