Last year, Washington State was all out to beat Eastern Washington 24-20. In 2010, the Cougars needed a miraculous fourth quarter comeback to defeat Montana State 23-22.
We're aware of what happened a couple weeks ago, when Oregon State, Kansas State, Connecticut and Iowa State all lost to FCS schools. And Portland State was an eyelash from knocking off Cal last week.
A year ago, Southern Utah was 5-6, but that record included wins over Eastern Washington, Portland State and Montana. The Thunderbirds also played California, pulling to within 20-17 during the third quarter before losing 50-31.
This does not figure to be a five-touchdown blowout for the Cougs.
It could happen, but don't expect it.
Defensively, Southern Utah is giving up 275 yards per game this season. Among the Thunderbirds' top defenders are defensive end James Cowser and linebackers Matt Holley and Zak Browning. Cowser has 4½ tackles for loss through two games in 2013.
Others to watch are preseason All-America candidates Cook and offensive lineman Gavin Farr. The Thunderbirds were picked to finish ninth out of 13 teams in the Big Sky preseason media poll.
The series: This is the first game in the WSU-Southern Utah series. This is the fourth consecutive year the Cougars have played a Big Sky team.
Familiar faces: Four players on Southern Utah's roster have Washington roots in senior tight end Jacob Alle (Renton), sophomore linebacker Zak Browning (Vancouver), freshman offensive lineman Daniel Fleischman (Issaquah) and freshman receiver Junior Toala (Burien). No coaches have ties to Washington State, but defensive coordinator Justin Ena grew up in Shelton.
How did that feel, Cougar fans? I'll be honest here: Washington State's 10-7 win over USC came as a big surprise. Big.
It's not that I think the Cougs weren't capable of beating USC. On a given Saturday, they had a chance. But in college football, where a team is dependent on 18, 19 and 20 year old players, winning the second of back-to-back road games is extremely difficult.
It's one of the sweet spots among college football bettors: bet against college football teams playing the second of back-to-back road games (without a bye week mixed in). Particularly if the first week, they played a rival or particularly emotional game. You could make a case for WSU, playing at Auburn in Week 1 fell into the latter category.
Last year, Washington State played in one back-to-back road situation last year. The result was a 49-6 loss at Utah, without a doubt the Cougars' worst performance of 2012. Saturday's win at USC ended an 11-game losing streak for WSU in the second of back-to-backs. The last time the Cougars won the second of the back-to-back road games was 2004, a 20-19 win at Arizona.
So kudos to the Cougs.
Thing is, it was a win and yet, there's so much room for improvement. Surely the Cougars will be better offensively than they were against USC. Hard to be worse, even if the game plan was tilted toward going after the short stuff against the Trojans. On the other hand, can WSU's defense play any better than it did Saturday? If so, or even if they're close, the Cougs are going to win a lot of games this season.
Should be fun to track.
Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel