With three of the Cougs’ starting o-linemen back plus wideouts Gabe Marks and River Cracraft, Athlon says Falk has the tools to make a run at several national passing records including yards (5,833); TD passes (58); completions (512); completions per game (39.4) and attempts (719).
The bottom line on WSU in 2016? Athlon picks WSU to post an identical record as Oregon (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12), but to finish fourth in the North by virtue of losing to the Ducks. Athlon also predicts the Cougs will play in the Cactus Bowl vs. Texas. Athlon slots Washington State No. 30 nationally.
But Athlon also says the Cougar offense will be lethal and if the Cougar D can improve on last season, WSU “could push for 10 wins.”
“The Cougs return a mostly accomplished, veteran line that should protect Falk, and he’ll have possibly the conference’s best group of wide receivers to throw to,” says Athlon. But there are many more questions defensively, opines the magazine, with the Cougs improvement on D last year still resulting in mediocre results in several defensive stat categories. Losing d-linemen Destiny Vaeao and Darryl Paulo plus two LB Jeremiah Allison and Kache Palacio/Ivan McLennan at the Rush leaves holes to fill, Athlon notes.
Athlon’s All-Pac-12 first team features two Cougars: WR Gabe Marks and C Riley Sorenson. Second-team selections were QB Luke Falk, DL Hercules Mata’afa and LB Peyton Pelluer. Third-team Cougars on Athlon’s list: OL Cole Madison and safety Shalom Luani.
Athlon’s award for “best hands” in the conference goes to Marks, and he’s also the pick for “best interview.” Falk is the “best passing QB” and “biggest overachiever.”
Washington State has its best group of running backs in the Mike Leach era on tap for 2016 – the Cougars run four-deep with Gerard Wicks, Jamal Morrow, Keith Harrington and James Williams.
Color Athlon unimpressed.
In its Pac-12 unit rankings, Athlon ranks WSU No. 2 in QBs and WRs, No. 6 in DBs, No. 8 in DL, No. 9 in OL and No. 10 in both RBs and LBs.
-- Rush Dylan Hanser (6-4, 230) is Athlon’s “rising star” pick for Washington State in 2016, citing the third-year junior's athleticism.
-- Athlon picks the UW and Stanford to tie atop the North with 6-3 conference marks, but for the Huskies to finish atop the standings by virtue of beating Stanford. Athlon picks UCLA to win the South outright. For its overrated/underrated section, Athlon picks Oregon and Utah, respectively.
-- Athlon didn’t select a Cougar among its top 30 incoming recruits in the Pac-12.
-- Athlon says the power in the Pac-12 has shifted to the North, with four teams all capable of double-digit wins this season (WSU, UW, Stanford, Oregon).
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