PULLMAN – Say one thing about those Cougars: When they say “anytime, any place,” they usually live up to the second promise.
The Washington State football program announced a home-and-home agreement with Utah State on Tuesday that will see the Cougars host the Aggies on Sept. 4, 2021, but not before traveling to Logan, Utah, for a Sept. 5, 2020 matchup.
Relatively few Power Five programs risk playing on the road against teams from the less-regarded – but still dangerous – lesser FBS conferences.
“One of our scheduling philosophies includes efforts to face quality regional competition, and Utah State certainly fits that model,” WSU athletic director Bill Moos stated in a press release.
Pac-12 coaches (with the exception of California’s Sonny Dykes) are all gearing up for their season openers. Each program is going through different trials and preparations for the 2016 season, and the coaches gave individual updates during the first weekly teleconference on Tuesday.
Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre knows he can’t ease into the season with an opener against instate rival Colorado State, which beat the Buffaloes in 2014 and lost by just three points last season.
“Their offensive line is excellent, and they knocked us around last year,” MacIntyre said. “Their offensive line and their tailback are very, very good players and concern me a lot.”
UTAH: Linebacker is understandably a topic of some concern in Salt Lake City, after the Utes said goodbye to revered playmakers Jared Norris and Gionni Paul. Coach Kyle Whittingham at one point said Utah needed “two pair and a spare” at linebacker after two of their best.
But a true freshman emerged during the preseason who could assure the Utes of stellar playmaking at the position for years to come.
“Donovan Thompson has probably been the biggest surprise at that position,” Whittingham said. “We feel like we’re in pretty good shape there. He’s got tremendous instincts, much like Gionni Paul. He’s a very similar player to Gionni.”
STANFORD: Stanford is the media’s preseason pick for conference champion. Much of Stanford’s hype centers around All-American all-everything running back Christian McCaffrey. On Tuesday, coach David Shaw explained why the running back can handle those lofty expectations.
“The good thing is he doesn’t really even – not that he doesn’t notice them – he doesn’t care about them,” Shaw said. “His expectations are always higher than anybody else’s for him, so the fact that people have these lofty expectations for him, he’s kind of shrugged them off. It’s never affected his work ethic or put a strain on him.”
UCLA: Head coach Jim Mora did not seem particularly concerned about the crowd noise playing in front of a loud crowd on Saturday when the Bruins travel to Texas A&M.
The Bruins play in many loud stadiums in the Pac-12, the coach noted. And while the Bruins do not play that annoying “crowd noise” track during their practices, UCLA workouts are plenty loud.
“We work with crowd noise every day,” Mora said, clarifying he meant loud music. “But it’s always important to have a few silent counts for when you get in an environment that’s extreme, so you can function.”
OREGON: Montana State transfer Dakota Prukop is the starting quarterback at Oregon, as expected. But coach Mark Helfrich said the job was not handed to Prukop on a silver platter.
“It was really kind of natural and it took place right in front of the team, as you want to have happen in these quarterback situations,” Helfrich said. “He realized he doesn’t always have to make spectacular plays, it’s about the layup. Handing the ball off to Royce Freeman or throwing a hitch can be a spectacular play.”