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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The pick: Why Colorado will beat Washington State

PULLMAN – Washington State may have suffered its fair share of trouble on the offensive line this season, but its guest Friday knows even more about that.

Colorado’s offensive line has permitted a whopping 48 sacks this season, by far the most in the country. It’s hamstrung quarterback Shedeur Sanders, one of the best in the country, has rarely had the time he’s needed in the pocket to harness his skill.

In that way, the Cougars could have their way up front against the Buffaloes, which is good news for edge rushers Brennan Jackson and RJ Stone Jr., two seniors who will play their final games at Gesa Field – as WSU tries to erase a six-game losing streak in its final home Pac-12 game.

“These guys have really contributed to our team,” WSU coach Jake Dickert said earlier in the week, “and I’m excited for all of their futures. Whether that includes football or not, I know these guys are ready for life.”

Here’s guessing the Cougars will meet that stage of their life sooner rather than later, which means a loss on Thursday.

A sneaky thing happened last week, during Washington State’s loss to Cal. Starting left tackle Esa Pole was carted off with a leg/ankle injury, and his status remains questionable for Friday’s game. The result last week: In came Rod Tialavea at left guard, and left guard Christian Hilborn moved to left tackle.

Hilborn has always fashioned himself more of a guard, mostly because he has the body type for it. He doesn’t have the speed to play tackle. That became clear on one of his first snaps after the injury, when he was dusted on the edge, and quarterback Cameron Ward took one of his six sacks on the afternoon.

If Ward can’t be himself, the Cougars’ offense will sputter, a movie we’ve seen several times this fall. Our guess is it plays again on Friday night.

The pick: Colorado 35, Washington State 23