Scouting Report: Washington State Cougars

Washington State and Arizona were both picked to be among the bottom feeders of the Pac-10. However, both teams are 3-0 entering Saturday's matchup and each has shown the ability to score points in bunches.

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Last year this was a barn burner. The Wildcats edged the Cougars 53-47 in a three-overtime shootout. Both teams are playing well this year and could have an impact on the conference race.

Quarterback Jason Gesser again leads the Cougars. Last season Gesser was among the Pac-10's best signal callers and so far this season nothing has changed. Gesser leads the Cougars' high-scoring offensive attack that has racked up serious points against inferior competition.

In the team's first two games, blowout wins over Idaho and Boise State, Gesser has thrown for 498 yards and six touchdowns. Gesser's back up, talented Matt Kegel has also played very well, giving the Cougars great depth.

Helping keep the pressure off Gesser is a strong running game led by Dave Minnich. Minnich has been the man; the former Marine has been able to pick up big yardage for the Cougars. He is averaging more than 100 hundred yards per contest.

"Minnich is outstanding," Cougar head coach Mike Price said.

It will be interesting to see how Minnich fares against the Wildcat defense. If he can't get going against the Cats, then Gesser could have a long night. If Minnich can do some damage on the ground, then the Cougars could put some points on the scoreboard.

Marcus Williams and Milton Wynn are gone and so are 85 catches, 1600 receiving yards and nine touchdowns from last season. Nokoa McElrath has picked up the slack as has converted basketball player Mike Bush and Trandon Harvey. McElrath has been Gesser's favorite target. As such, you might see McElrath and Michael Jolivette spending a lot of time together.

The defense has been outstanding for the Cougars as well.

The Cougars have been very impressive in shutting down the run, the front seven has overwhelmed the opposition at times, forcing teams to go the pass.

The linebacking corps could be among the Pac-10's best. James Price and Raonall Smith are very solid and could compete for all-league honors.

The key to this group is speed. It's allowed them to assist with pass coverage as well as blitzing the quarterback. Expect to see the linebackers turned lose in an attempt to pressure UA quarterback Jason Johnson all night.

The Cougars' defensive backs are also a great unit, but they have not played stellar football this season. The Cougars have been susceptible to the pass at times.

That being said, cornerback Marcus Trufant and safety Billy Newman are both standouts and should provide a spark for the Cougars. Unfortunately, Newman had 100 tackles to lead the team last season, and when a safety leads the team in tackles, something isn't working right. However, Trufant and Newman could find themselves among the league's elite at the end of the season.

OUTLOOK: Mike Price is now the dean of Pac-10 coaches, but he needs a good season to save his job. The Cougars have shown flashes of being a great team this season, but the Wildcats are the best opponent that they've faced to date.

Both teams are similar in that they have playmakers on both sides of the ball, but each also has questions with their depth.

Both teams will attempt to run a balanced offense and the team that makes the most big plays against a good defense should prevail. This one may come down to turnovers or special teams.

ARIZONA 27, Washington State 21


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