2017 Football Preview – Pac-12 – Cougars
Looking for 2017 Washington State Cougars predictions? The Cougars had a very Mike Leach-like season in 2016. After losing right out the gate to Eastern Washington and Boise State, the Cougars went on to win 8 in a row. Included in those 8 wins were games against Oregon, Stanford and UCLA.
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- Head Coach: Mike Leach
- 2015 Record: 8-5
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They finished the regular season with losses to the two team who played for the Pac-12 title: Washington and Colorado before earning a bid to the Holiday Bowl, which they dropped to Minnesota.
There’s been a shake-up in the Pac-12 North. Can Mike Leach and company take advantage?
2017 Washington State Cougars Predictions: Team Strengths
Heeeee’s Baaaaack: Those who follow Washington State football or Mike Leach were surprised to see quarterback Luke Falk come back for his senior season. The passing game was by far the strength of the 2016 team, which finished third in the entire nation in the category.
Despite other changes on the offense, this Washington State team is looking at the big-armed QB to help them get over the hump in his last hoorah.
His last two season at the helm, Falk as put up at least 4200 yards and 38 touchdowns with a combined completion percentage hovering between 69 and 70 percent. He earned All-Pac-12 honors in 2015.
Falk has a chance for both personal glory and being hailed as more of a hero than he already is in Pullman. With a performance as good as, or better, than he has put up the last 2 seasons, it may help the Cougars get in prime position for a big bowl game as well as improving his draft stock for next year.
Stable of Horses: Despite some key losses, they team returns their three-headed monster in the backfield. James Williams, Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks are all back this season after putting up subtly strong numbers.
While a Mike Leach running game has never been able to take off in his career, this team used their offensive line to their advantage last season, putting up around 5.8 yards per carry. They also averaged just under 7 yards per reception.
With 2 outside linemen returning, there’s a good chance the backfield could play an important role this season for the Cougars.
2017 Washington State Cougars Predictions: Team Weaknesses
Everything Else: The ability to score a whole lot of points has been a strength of Leach-led teams. This Cougar team is no different.
The defense was decent at best last season, probably resulting in at least 2 of the team’s losses last season. The pass rush was atrocious, with just 2 players recording 2 or more sacks on the season.
While they are returning their top defensive lineman in Hercules Mata’afa, the rest of the defense will be shaky.
Special teams didn’t help, either. With their starting punt returner gone this season and a decent at best kick returning coming back, things don’t seem to be getting better. Returners weren’t the problem, either.
Their punter averaged under 29 yards per punt. Their kicker missed one third of his kicks from under 40 yards, which was felt throughout the season.
On top of all that, they also have to determine who will step up in the receiving corps. With Gabe Marks and River Cracraft both gone this season, it’s hard to imagine anyone who can fill shoes like that in this prolific passing offense.
The Cougars have a lot of young weapons in waiting, but will they be enough to not only help get over the 8-win hump?
Washington State Cougars Prediction: 6-6
Losing two of the school’s historically best receivers will be felt this season.
While things may have been on the uptick, this schedule doesn’t do them any favors. The team only has 5 road games this season, but they are all on the back half of the schedule, including finishing at Utah then at Washington.
Outside of those last 2 opponents, the Cougars have to see USC, Stanford and an Oregon team who will be a lot better than the one they beat in a shootout last season.
2017 is shaping up to be a very interesting year Mike Leach and the Cougars. While this could finally be the year they get over the hump, it could also be the year they take a painful step back.
2017 Washington State Cougars Football Schedule
- 9/2/17 10:30 PM EST MTST
- 9/9/17 10:30 PM EST BSU
- 9/16/17 5:30 PM EST ORST
- 9/23/17 TBD NEV
- 9/29/17 10:30 PM EST USC
- 10/7/17 TBD @ORE
- 10/13/17 10:30 PM EST @CAL
- 10/21/17 TBD COLO
- 10/28/17 TBD @ARIZ
- 11/4/17 TBD STAN
- 11/11/17 TBD @UTAH
- 11/25/17 TBD @WASH
What do you think about our 2017 Washington State Cougars predictions? Please leave us a comment below telling us how you think they’ll do in 2017!
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