The visitors are looking for their second-ever win against an SEC team when the Cougars travel to the Plains. Currently 1-5 all-time against the Southeastern Conference, going 1-4 against the University of Tennessee, WSU fell 40-14 at Auburn in its only previous meeting in the 2006 season opener.
One thing fans can expect to see Saturday night from the Cougars is the football in the air. Last season Washington State threw the ball 624 times and attempted at least 45 passes in 10 of the 12 games it played. To put that into perspective, Auburn has had just nine games in its 121 years of playing football in which the Tigers attempted that many passes. None of those games happened in the last decade.
The leader of the offense is talented quarterback Connor Halliday. Throwing for more than 300 times in four games last season, Halliday was part of a Washington State offense that led the league in passing and was sixth nationally at 330.4 yards per game. Even though he has just six career starts to his credit, with five coming last season, Halliday is already 10th in school history with 24 career touchdown passes.
Sophomore receiver Brett Bartolone is back after earning All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors in 2012 with 53 receptions and four touchdowns. Fellow sophomore wide receiver Gabe Marks finished third on the team with 49 catches and tallied a pair of 100-yard performances in his first collegiate season.
Up front Washington State returns an offensive line that has 49 career starts with 30 coming from senior right guard John Fullington.
Defensively, the Cougars should be improved with eight players returning who have 10 or more career starts. The leader of the pack is safety Deone Bucannon. With 30 career starts under his belt, 270 total tackles and nine career interceptions, Bucannon is coming off a career season in 2012 when he finished with 106 tackles to earn All-Pac 12 second team honors.
Up front Washington State is hoping for more production from a defensive line that was good rushing the passer, but struggled to stop the run. Allowing 163.2 yards per game and 21 touchdowns on the ground, the Cougars are hoping to build around a trio of big guys on the line. Tackle Kalafitoni Pole (6-1, 302), noseguard Ioane Gauta (6-3, 285) and end Xavier Cooper (6-4, 303) started 23 games for the Cougars in 2012 and should be more equipped to handle the duties this season.
If it comes down to a kick then Washington State should be in good shape with senior Andrew Furney. Last season he earned All-Pac-12 second team honors after going 14-for-20 on field goal attempts, which tied for second in the conference. Showing a strong leg, he was 7-for-7 on attempts inside 30 yards and 6-of-10 on kicks outside of 40 yards, including a conference-best 60-yarder against Eastern Washington.
QB-17 Connor Halliday, 6-4, 190, Jr.
RB-34 Teondray Caldwell, 5-8, 198, So.
X-88 Isiah Myers, 6-0, 185, Jr.
Z-84 Gabe Marks, 6-0, 176, So.
H-19 Bret Bartalone, 5-10, 187, So.
LT-63 Gunnar Eklund, 6-7, 300, So.
LG-56 Joe Dahl, 6-4, 290, So.
C-60 Elliot Bosch, 6-4, 280, Sr.
RG-77 John Fullington, 6-5, 301, Sr.
RT-Rico Forbes, 6-6, 300, Sr.
T-98 Kalafitoni Polem 6-1, 302, Sr.
NT-95 Ioane Gauta, 6-3, 285, Sr.
E-96 Xavier Cooper, 6-4, 303, So.
Buck-97 Destiny Vaeao, 6-4, 290, So.
Sam-42 Cyrus Coen, 6-0, 215, Jr.
Mike-13 Darryl Monroe, 6-1, 235, So.
Will-10 Justin Sagote, 6-0, 218, So.
CB-6 Damante Horton, 5-10, 175, Sr.
CB-2 Nolan Washington, 5-11, 182, Sr.
SS-20 Deone Bucannon, 6-1, 215, Sr.
FS-Taylor Taliulu, 5-11, 196, So.