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Idaho 101: Cougs and Vandals will both be out for blood

THE COUGARS are licking their wounds after a tough start to the season and hope to find a little victory balm at the expense of Idaho. The beleaguered Vandals want nothing to do with that.

AT A GLANCE: Cougars (0-2) vs Vandals (1-1)

KICKOFF:
11 a.m. PT

WHERE:
Martin Stadium (32,952)

TELEVISION:
Pac-12 Networks

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
WSU by 25

LAST MEETING:
Washington State won 42-0 in Pullman in 2013.

THE SERIES:
Washington State leads 71-17-3.

MATT MOORE's PREDICTION:
Cougs 51, Vandals 13

THE VANDALS ON OFFENSE:
QB Matt Linehan: The son of an NFL coach, Linehan threw for 3,000 yards last year but has really struggled out of the gate in 2016. He has just 315 combined passing yards with one touchdown through two games.

TE Trent Cohen: Finished fourth among FBS tight ends in 2015 with 48 catches and 624 receiving yards. He teams up with Deon Watson to give Idaho a pair of dynamic TE weapons that present size mismatches.

RB Aaron Duckworth: The Vandal's running back was kept contained by UW, but he had 108 rushing yards and two scores against Montana State.

Overview
The Vandals run a lot of twin tight end formations. It was an effective attack for them last year, but just can't get off the ground this season. The graduation of star running back Elijhaa Penny has left a substantial hole in the ground attack, but the Vandal offense may also be suffering the effects of a tumultuous off-season that saw Idaho announce they would return to the Big Sky and FCS in 2018.

Strategy
Idaho's offense averaged over 30 points per game in 2015. Their problems were on the other side of the ball. In 2016, however, they can't seem to find their rhythm on offense. Linehan was the top passer in the Sun Belt conference as a sophomore, but is struggling so far under additional defensive attention. The Cougars need to put their emphasis on pressuring him and limiting the tight ends to short completions.

Key Stat:
0 Points: Idaho did not score the last time they played in Pullman. And don't think they aren't fully aware of it.

THE VANDALS ON DEFENSE:
LB Kaden Elliss: Broke into the starting lineup as a true freshman to lead the team in tackles in 2015. He has 15 stops and a sack through two games.

FS Russell Siavii: Idaho's most experienced defensive back and the leader of the secondary.

Overview
Cougar fans will recognize Coach Mike Breske's defense, and Breske is rather familiar with the Air Raid as well. He runs a 3-4 with a hybrid “Buck” linebacker-end. The Vandal D held their own against Montana State, but got boat-raced by Washington.

Strategy
Idaho's cornerbacks looked completely outgunned by UW's fast receivers, particularly against the deep ball. Luke Falk has to take the brakes off the offense and start to stretch the field vertically.

Key Stat:
13.2 yard per pass attempt: Jake Browning torched the Vandals on long throws. Idaho will likely follow Boise State's blueprint and keep the secondary back to try and force short completions - relying on the Cougars to stop themselves with mistakes. Falk needs to trust his receivers to make plays.

THE VANDALS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Austin Rehkow handles all the kicking and punting duties and is on the Groza watch list.

FINAL THOUGHTS
-The past six months have been very sad for me to watch the Vandal program. The announcement of their voluntary relegation to the FCS level, the first of its kind in college football, has been met with utter disdain by the fanbase. Recruiting has imploded, and donations have dried up. The return of the Vandals to the Big Sky may make a lot of financial sense, but Idaho football might be strikingly uncompetitive by the time they get there.

-Much will be made of the fiery history between Mike Leach and Paul Petrino, but the return of Mike Breske to Martin Stadium is where the real intrigue lies. To say the Idaho coaches are looking for some payback in this one after the last meeting would be an understatement. With Breske added to the mix, coming back to send his D against the offense of the guy who fired him, just adds more spice to the gumbo.

RELATED STORY: Post-game handshake fireworks as WSU blasts Idaho 42-0


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