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First Look: Portland St. at Washington St.

When/Where: Saturday, 11 a.m.; Martin Stadium, Pullman

TV: Pac-12 Networks (All)

Records: Portland State (0-0); WSU (0-0)

Last time: Washington State defeated Portland State 59-21 in Pullman (2014)

What it means for WSU: An easy home win to start the season. First-year Portland State coach Bruce Barnum’s Vikings don’t have the talent, depth or experience to compete with the Cougars. That means WSU won’t have to struggle to get its first win, like it did in 2014 when the season began with consecutive upsets losses to Rutgers and at Nevada. It also means the Cougars will have a chance to shake off the offseason rust and get young contributors some meaningful snaps before a key Week 2 matchup at Rutgers.

What it means for PSU: Mostly, a $525,000 check. The Vikings will bus to Pullman with the primary objective of collecting the big-school gate receipts that keep the football program afloat. Only the elite FCS schools can usually compete against bigger schools that can offer full scholarships and television exposure – the Cougars are 45-2 against teams currently in the Big Sky Conference. A win in Pullman would be a hallmark for the program, but it’s exceedingly unlikely.

Key Matchup: PSU coverage units vs. WSU kick returners

The Cougars haven’t returned a kickoff for a touchdown since 2003 and the last time WSU ran back a punt for a score was 2005. Kick returner Tavares Martin and punt returner Kyrin Priester may end one or both of those inauspicious streaks on Saturday. Both players are freshmen who bring new speed and explosiveness to WSU’s return game. Coupled with blockers who will likely be bigger and faster than PSU’s tacklers, and WSU has its best chance to house a kick in years.

By Jacob Thorpe


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