PULLMAN – The new coaches add intrigue to this Battle of the Palouse, but the game probably won’t be remembered as an interesting one.
Washington State will have significant advantages all over the field against its farmland neighbors from Idaho.
“When you play a FBS team, specifically a Power Five team, you can play really well and still lose the game,” first-year Vandals coach Jason Eck said, “just because they got more scholarships and more resources than you.”
The Cougars’ defensive line and receiving corps – two standout Pac-12 units – could present major issues for the Vandals’ offensive line and secondary, both unproven groups in the Big Sky.
WSU is bigger and faster, as a Pac-12 team should be. The Cougars are equally motivated, playing under a first-year coach in Jake Dickert and eager to debut their reshaped program, the “New Wazzu.”
“This being my first Power Five game, it means a lot to me,” said WSU quarterback Cameron Ward, a touted transfer . “For the team, we’re just so anxious to play. We have a whole new coaching staff, we have a lot of different players in different positions. We’re just ready to showcase what we can do.”
Eck is rebuilding Idaho’s program and trying to turn it into a winner. The Cougars have the edge in stability. Dickert led a winning program last season as interim coach, and WSU isn’t expected to regress this year.
History also points to the Cougars. They are 23-2 in the series since 1965 and are on a nine-game winning streak against the Vandals over the past 20 years.
Sure, it’s not unheard of – Idaho beat WSU as recently as 2000; four Big Sky teams topped FBS opponents last season; the Cougars even dropped a couple of games against Big Sky competition in the recent past. Idaho might well be an improved team under Eck, but it’s difficult to imagine such a quick turnaround after several tough years in Moscow. Since the Vandals returned to the FCS in 2018, they are 0-6 against FBS teams and have been outscored 340-60 in those games.
Dickert and Eck are buddies, so don’t expect WSU to run up the score. But the Cougars should separate from Idaho relatively early.
The pick: Washington State 45, Idaho 10
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