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Washington State looms large in ESPN's forecast of the 10 most compelling Pac-12 football games of 2016

YOU KNOW Washington State’s football program has firmly turned the corner when ESPN picks the Cougars to be playing in three of the Pac-12’s “most compelling games of the 2016 season.” Staff writer David Lombardi hasn’t disclosed the No. 1 contest yet, but three of the nine he has unveiled feature the Fighting Cougars.

Here are the three:

NO. 9: WSU at BOISE STATE on Sept. 10 ...

BSU has derailed Washington, Oregon State and Oregon on the blue turf, “So Washington State, stocked and confident with returning players, will have to reverse a losing Pac-12 trend …Though they'll be the more talented team, the Cougars will have to battle a bloodthirsty crowd. They may even have to overcome themselves, too: Teams must usually pound out offseason rust during early games, and the smurf turf isn't a forgiving place to do that,” Lombardi writes. Click here for his full summary.

NO. 7: OREGON at WSU on Oct. 1 ...

Last season’s epic, double-overtime win by the Cougars in Eugene sets the table for a donnybrook in 2016, says Lombardi. “Falk is back, as are key receivers Gabe Marks and River Cracraft … so the table is set for a prolific offense to pair with an improving defense on the Palouse … Let's see if Washington State can capitalize on its experience advantage and deliver a landscape-changing win. This game promises to be a critical hinge point …” Click here for his full summary.

NO. 4: WASHINGTON at WSU on Nov. 25 ...

Lombardi calls the Cougars and Huskies “a pair of ascending rivals” whose regular-season finale could be for all the marbles. “This would have been a blasphemous thought to utter only a few months ago, but I'm comfortable saying it now: There's a non-zero chance this game will have Pac-12 North title implications -- for one or both of the teams involved,’ Lombardi writes. Click here for his full summary.

Here's are the other six most compelling Pac-12 games Lombardi picks for '16:

No. 10: UW at Arizona

No. 8: USC at UCLA

No. 6 Stanford at Notre Dame

No. 5 USC at Utah

No. 3 UCLA at Texas A&M

No. 2 Stanford at Oregon


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