PULLMAN – I spoke with two Rypiens this week. One told me why Luke Falk and the Washington State offense should be able to hum like they usually do and knock off Boise State with relative ease to improve to 2-0 this season. The other told me the opposite – that these national-spotlight games against the Pac-12 mean a great deal to the Broncos and, well, there’s a reason they’ve won four of them in a row.
Mark and Brett gave me plenty of great quotes for our pregame coverage of Saturday’s meeting between Washington State and Boise State. So thanks to both for that. They did not, however, give me a great deal of insight into who I should pick in this Week 2 clash at Martin Stadium. One likes WSU’s chances, the other would put down $50 for BSU if it didn’t violate NCAA policy.
So, I’m left to draw on my own knowledge here – what I learned from the Cougars’ dominant 31-0 win over Montana State and what I’ve read and heard about the Broncos’ 24-13 victory over Troy. It’s not easy to glean much from one game, especially considering the Cougars played an opponent that would be overachieving if it finished the year top three in the Big Sky standings. But I’ll try.
A wise man named Mike Leach once said that football games are won and lost up front, and anybody who’s ever watched a football game at any level would probably surmise the same. That’s what my pick comes down to.
Boise State has proven it can be especially disruptive up front. The Broncos were good for four sacks and nine tackles-for-loss versus the Trojans. The Cougars can probably match BSU there. WSU tagged Montana State’s Chris Murray for three sacks, which shouldn’t be overlooked because Murray’s only true asset as a quarterback is his ability to escape the pocket.
Maybe the defensive lines cancel each other out. Let’s say they do.
The offensive lines don’t. The Broncos return just one full-time starter from last season. The other four have eight combined starts under their belt. The Cougars return three starters – an All-American among them – and one of the newbies, B.J. Salmonson, played so well against Montana State that he earned WSU’s “Bone Award,” given weekly to the team’s top offensive lineman. Oh, and according to offensive line coach Clay McGuire, the other rookie, Fred Mauigoa, had the best first start of any center since McGuire’s been on the Palouse.
On paper, one team simply seems more stocked with talent than the other. In addition to an overwhelming advantage up front, the Cougars seemingly have the better quarterback, running backs and receivers. Fine, fine, I’ll give the Broncos the edge at tight end, but that’s it.
The spread: WSU by 10. The pick: WSU, 34-20