Cougar Outlook 2012: Home slate favorable

PLAYING A CONFERENCE game against the Oregon schools each year in Seattle presents opportunities. It also presents challenges, particularly last season when the Cougars had just one game at Martin Stadium in two months. Such a lengthy absence will not be an issue this season as WSU never has more than two straight games away from Martin Stadium.

The Cougars open at Brigham Young, which is Mike Leach's alma mater. It will be an immediate measuring stick for the new Cougar offense as BYU ranked 13th among FBS schools in total defense last year and returns seven starters on that side of the ball.

Granted, BYU played the likes of Idaho State, San Jose State, New Mexico State and Idaho. But they also scrapped it out with Texas, Utah, Oregon State, TCU and others.

If WSU wins its opener, a perfect nonconference record appears likely as the Cougars follow with a home game against Eastern Washington and a tilt at UNLV.

The Eagles finished with a 6-5 record and graduate several starters, including quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and defensive tackle Renard Williams, an NFL prospect. UNLV had a 2-10 record and lost 59-7 last year against the Cougars in Pullman.

In looking over the schedule, home wins are critical.

In Leach's 10 years at Texas Tech, he compiled a 53-11 record at home and the home slate in 2012 looks favorable. None of WSU's four opponents at Martin Stadium -- Colorado, California, UCLA and Washington -- won more than seven games last season. The Cougars also host defending Pac-12 Oregon on Sept. 29 in Seattle.

Colorado returns 13 starters including special teamers, Cal returns 11 , UCLA returns 16 starters and UW returns 14 starters.

Washington State meanwhile looks to return 18 starters.

WSU, which plays its first conference road game Oct. 6 at Oregon State and the Beavers are the Cougars' only Pac-12 road opponent that did not advance to a bowl last year.

WSU follows with road contests at Stanford (Oct. 27), Utah (Nov. 3) and Arizona State (Nov. 17). The Sun Devils, who have a new coach (Todd Graham) and graduated several starters on both offense and defense, might be the weakest opponent of that group. But the Cougars have not won at ASU since 2001 and have a 5-15-2 record in Tempe.

Click here for our preview of the 2012 OFFENSE

Click here for out preview of the 2012 DEFENSE and SPECIAL TEAMS

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