PULLMAN – Game week is upon us. After a long offseason – and, I swear, the longest preseason – we finally have a weekend full of college football to look forward to.
That means it is time to start making some predictions. If history holds, these guesses will not be especially accurate. But if history holds, I’m sure you will all be happy to tell me about it when I’m wrong.
Here’s how I see 2016 playing out for the Cougars.
Week 1: Eastern Washington – Cooper Kupp dancing in the end zone twice on the way to a 21-17 halftime lead for the Eagles has visions of another Portland State upset dancing in the heads of WSU fans. Not to worry, the Cougars come out with a strong second half and put EWU away. WSU 48-34
Week 2: At Boise State – Expect these offenses to light up the blue turf. Boise State’s offense is loaded, but the defense is loaded with inexperience. A back-and-forth game comes down to the final minutes, when Brett Rypien leads a final drive in front of a packed house to knock off his uncle’s old team. BSU 48-45
Week 3: Idaho – This one is not going to be close. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is boiling after the game because Idaho scores late. Make sure you watch the postgame handshake. WSU 59-7
Week 4: Bye – Well-timed bye week comes a little early in the season for the Cougars, but allows the team to refocus heading into a brutal opening slate of Pac-12 games.
Week 5: Oregon – The Ducks and ESPN College GameDay roll into town, and “Rolls” Royce Freeman does his thing. Dakota Prukop is better than expected, Brady Hoke knows how to coach a defense and so reports of UO’s demise prove greatly exaggerated. But this time, late breaks go WSU’s way and the Cougars get their second win over the Ducks. WSU 38-31
Week 6: at Stanford – Knocking off the preseason Pac-12 favorite on the road is a tough task, particularly when the home team boasts the country’s best all-purpose skill player. The offensive line is always a strength for the Cardinal, and the defensive front seven is WSU’s weak spot. All that adds up to a loss for the Cougars. Stanford 41-31
Week 7: UCLA – When people discuss Josh Rosen’s legacy, this will be the game they point to most. The Cougars outplay the Bruins for the most part, but the super sophomore quarterback stretches Grinch’s defense to the max with his strong and accurate arm. The Cougars lose on another late drive, reversing last year’s trend. UCLA 35-31
Week 8: At Arizona State – The message-board crowd gets antsy after a couple weeks without a win, and are right to fear a trip to Tempe, where the Cougars always struggle to win. But Luke Falk isn’t worried. WSU 42-28
Week 9: At Oregon State – The Cougars emerged from their rough opening stretch with a 2-2 record, which should be the goal. Now the Cougars will be favored in every game until at least the Apple Cup. WSU 55-21
Week 10: Arizona – WSU ends its weird streak under Leach of beating Arizona on the road but getting blown out at home. WSU 55-28
Week 11: California – Cal quarterback David Webb is good enough to make this game difficult for the Cougars, but the Golden Bears defense will be their undoing in a lot of games this year. WSU 45-35
Week 12: At Colorado – There’s a lot going on in this game. The Buffaloes are improving and it won’t be easy for the Cougars to get a win at Folsom Field. A classic trap game, I predict some WSU players’ minds already start to drift to next week’s showdown with Washington. Still, the talent gap is too much for an upset. WSU 41-34
Week 13: Apple Cup – An incredibly nervous game for both sides, since neither offense is able to get much going on the other’s defense. The score is deadlocked at 10 each entering the fourth quarter, and both teams manage a touchdown. With just one second left on the clock, Erik Powell lines up for a 50-yard field goal. He nails it, giving WSU a win and a trip to the Pac-12 Championship Game. WSU 20-17
Final record: (9-3, 7-2 Pac-12)
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