Analyzing WSU’s football schedule, Part III: Deception Pass

THE BACK END of Washington State's 2016 football schedule sets up well for the Cougs on paper. That said, there are many pundits predicting the Pac-12 will beat itself up this season -- and woe be to those who underestimate any team in conference play.

Week 7: at Arizona State
Returning starters: 10 (4 offense, 6 defense)
A three-way battle at quarterback and five new assistant coaches presents more questions than answers in Tempe ahead of the 2016 season. ASU will also have four new offensive linemen and three new starters in the secondary. The Sun Devils' stated focus is to run the ball on offense and take away the run on defense. ASU also looks to blitz less than in previous years, and try instead to get there consistently with their four-down linemen.

Week 8: at Oregon State
Returning starters: 13 (7 offense, 6 defense)
It's going to take time for Gary Andersen to restock but the Beavers in 2016 figure to typify the saying, "on any given Saturday" after OSU with a furious rally gave Oregon all they wanted and more in last season's Civil War. QB Darell Garretson has been named the QB starter after sitting out last year, and RB Ryan Nall is a 6-2, 255-pound matchup nightmare for teams (can also play TE and H-back). The defense, which allowed a league-worst 42.3 ppg against Pac-12 opponents, has questions galore, and figures to feature a lot of young and new faces.

Week 9: Arizona
Returning starters: 15 (7 offense, 8 defense)
Arizona was decimated by injuries in '15. And Rich Rodriguez didn't help himself in Tucson when he interviewed for the South Carolina job this offseason.  His defense is moving away (somewhat) from the 3-3-5 and the Wildcats are going to give long looks to new faces on D in 2016, particularly at safety. The big question is if the Arizona offense can make up for what looks to be a developing year on D. If so, Arizona could surprise similar to the 2014 season when they won the Pac-12 South. If not, another seven-win season could be in store.

Week 10: Cal
Returning starters: 10 (4 offense, 6 defense)
There is no clear starter at QB and Jared Goff's departure will certainly be felt.  But despite losing its top six receiving targets, Cal has a good YAC threat in Melquise Stovall (expect more short, quick passes in '16) and Chad Hansen is no slouch. Vic Enwere leads a promising RB corps. The Bears' ability to post back-to-back bowl appearances may depend on the defense and if they can generate a similar pass rush to last year.  Cal is squarely out of the limelight in the Pac-12 North with the two Washington schools, Stanford and Oregon owning the preseason hype. But if Cal gets its QB situation squared away they could prove to be this year's sleeper.

Week 11: at Colorado
Returning starters: 18 (9 offense, 9 defense)
There's more hope in Boulder than there has been in years with all the returning starters (top 10 nationally) and a number of close losses in '15 -- Colorado last season lost to USC, UCLA, Arizona and Utah by a touchdown or less.  But if injured QB starter Sefo Liufau isn't healed up and ready to go, building on last year's four wins gets harder.  Colorado's o-line is still a work in progress and the defense, which ranked No. 85 nationally in 2015 allowing 417 ypg, still has a ways to go to close the gap.

Week 12: Washington
Returning starters: 15 (8 offense, 7 defense)
There are two ways to look at the Huskies headed into fall camp. The predominant one by the media: UW returns most of its conference-leading defense plus QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin. They finished last year on a three-game win streak, will enter this season ranked and will compete for the conference crown in '16.  Meanwhile, pessimists point out that even with a D that ranked 30th in total defense nationally, and Browning and Gaskin, the Huskies needed to win their final two regular season games just to finish 6-6. Also, forgotten from last year in the wake of a strong finish: Husky fans (again) vociferously questioning Chris Petersen and staff's in-game decisions, from playcalling to time management.  Still, UW should be highly favored in its first four games.  Back-to-back games vs. Stanford and at Oregon in Weeks 5 and 6 will determine which train any undecided fans jump on: optimistic or pessimistic.

Analyzing WSU’s football schedule, Part II
Analyzing WSU’s football schedule, Part I

Cougfan Top Stories