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The pick: Why Washington State will beat Utah State

By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

PULLMAN – It’s only Week 1 and it’s only a nonconference foe, but it feels like a must-win.

Washington State is hosting fans at Gesa Field for the first time in almost two years. They’ll be expecting something to cheer for.

Less-than-positive news has been clouding the Cougars and coach Nick Rolovich for about the past month. WSU certainly doesn’t want any extra negativity circling the program.

Multiple betting outlets have the Cougs as three-score favorites in Saturday’s opener against Utah State of the Mountain West Conference.

Anything less than a comfortable victory would be a surprise, and not a pleasant one.

The Cougs return 18 starters from a team that went 1-3 last year under a first-year staff. Those coaches have since had a traditional offseason to properly implement their schemes.

The Aggies are fielding a new-look roster under a first-year staff after a dismal 1-5 season, during which coach Gary Andersen was let go. His successor, the offensive-minded Blake Anderson, was plucked out of Arkansas State eight months ago. He brought in a fresh batch of assistants and signed a ton of transfers to aid in the rebuild.

“Now it’s just about finding out, what kind of team do we really have?” Anderson said.

The Cougars should play with more cohesion than their opponents, considering their edge in prep time and the veteran nature of their depth chart. The disparity in overall talent between the conferences should play a part, too.

Take the history into account: Utah State is 0-12 on the road against Power Five opponents in the past decade. In fact, the Aggies haven’t topped a power conference team on the road in 50 years.

The Cougs don’t want to be the ones to snap that streak.

The pick: Washington State 44, Utah State 21