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Breaking down Washington State’s 2020 football schedule, game by game

Washington State players enter the field before an NCAA college football game against New Mexico State in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019.   (Associated Press)

Week 1

Nov. 7: at Oregon State

Time/TV: 7:30 p.m./FS1

In 2019, this game produced 107 points. In 2018, the Cougars and Beavers combined for 93. In 2017? 75. Oregon State will be glad to see something other than the Air Raid, but if Washington State had to debut Nick Rolovich’s run-and-shoot against anyone in the Pac-12 North, the Cougars would probably select the Beavers. Look for the running backs – OSU’s Jermar Jefferson and WSU’s Max Borghi – to steal the show in Corvallis, as new starting quarterbacks get adjusted to the speed of play.

Week 2

Nov. 14: vs. Oregon

Time/TV: TBD

How much has WSU’s run defense improved under first-year coordinator Jake Dickert? If it wasn’t apparent in week one, it should be in week two. The Cougars got a full dose of CJ Verdell in Eugene last year, when the Oregon running back rushed 25 times for 257 yards and three touchdowns. The Ducks had a number of notable NFL opt-outs this offseason, so the Cougars could actually be more experienced on paper, and that might come in handy two weeks into the season. Oregon will be favored, but the final score may be closer than one normally is between teams picked first and sixth in the preseason poll.

Week 3

Nov. 21: at Stanford

Time/TV: TBD

K.J. Costello could’ve spent his final collegiate season at Stanford, but the quarterback had his mind made up on graduate transferring to WSU to play for offensive guru Mike Leach. When Leach left for Mississippi State, Costello followed. Either way, the longtime Stanford starter won’t be a part of this Pac-12 North matchup, and the Cardinal will rely on Davis Mills, who lit the Cougars up for a school-record 504 yards with three touchdowns. Stanford’s been impacted by opt-outs, and WSU has won the past four games in the series, making this a decent opportunity to pick up a win on the road.

Week 4

Nov. 27: vs. Washington

Time/TV: 12:30, 4:30, or 7:30 p.m./ABC or ESPN

Rolovich has installed an Apple Cup countdown clock in the team’s locker room and is already engaging in Apple Cup banter with Washington fans on social media. The new coach, unlike his predecessor, is not treating this game like the others on the schedule, but it’ll take much more than that to end a seven-game skid in the rivalry. The Huskies, like the Cougars, are inexperienced at quarterback and had a few key players on defense opt out for the NFL. But UW, as it has for the past five to seven years, is presumed to have reloaded on defense, replacing NFL talent with highly- recruited youngsters eager for an opportunity to play in the purple and gold. WSU won’t be expected to end its Apple Cup drought this year, but closing the gap on UW would be a good start for Rolovich in a shortened 2020 season.

Week 5

Dec. 4: at USC

Time/TV: 6:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m./FS1

Somebody in the Pac-12 North had to draw USC in the lone crossover game, and most will say that didn’t happen by accident. The Trojans were picked to win the South, but the Cougars have matched up well with Clay Helton’s teams, winning the 2017 meeting by three points and losing the 2018 version by the same margin. Kedon Slovis is the conference’s most NFL-ready quarterback, and even after losing Michael Pittman, he’ll have a variety of receiving weapons in Graham Harrell’s Air Raid offense, starting with Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns. By virtue of their Friday Apple Cup the week before, the Cougars will have a full week to get ready for the Trojans, while USC’s preparation is trimmed a day short.

Week 6

Dec. 12: vs. California

Time/TV: TBA

It’ll be the latest regular-season game ever played in Pullman, and probably the coldest. It would’ve been a good time for WSU to play, oh, Arizona? Instead, the Cougars get Justin Wilcox and Cal. The Golden Bears were picked to finish second in the Pac-12 North, and even if they don’t have the offensive firepower to blow anyone out of the water, they’re one of just two teams in the division with a returning starter at quarterback.