Idaho St. (0-0) at Washington St. (0-0)
There’s nowhere to go but up, Cougars! Washington State took a true licking from its Pac-10/12 counterparts last season, winning twice in 12 games, but there’s a solid chance that this team improves in 2011.
The road to redemption starts with a home game against Idaho State in Week 1.
This is one of those games that Washington State has no business losing. If the Cougars do lose, or even let Idaho State hang in this game, they should be very worried about their season.
Put it this way: Not only is Idaho State a tier down in the FCS, it’s one of the worst teams in the FCS. The Cougars need to lay a pasting on the lowly Bengals to build confidence as they prepare for tough opponents like Oregon, Stanford, Arizona State, Utah, Washington and San Diego State.
The Cougars should really let their passing game loose on Saturday. Jeff Tuel has room to improve on his 2.780-yard, 18-touchdown season of a year ago. Sophomore Marquess Wilson has a very high ceiling and already established a nice rapport with his quarterback as a freshman last season, topping the 1,000-yard mark.
There are still a few questions I’d like to see Washington State start to answer in Week 1. Will it do a better job running the football this season?
It ranked 117th in the FBS a season ago. Logwone Mitz takes over from James Montgomery as the starting tailback, But should we be excited about a guy who averaged 3.6 yards per carry last season?
Another big question: will the offensive line do a better job protecting Tuel this year after allowing a brutal 51 sacks in 2010? It’s entirely possible.
Fresno City College transfer David Gonzales has been “perfect” at left tackle in camp according to his coaches. Maybe Tuel will finally have the trusty blind-side protector he’s been waiting for.
Lastly, will the Cougars “D” better its ugly effort of a season ago? Against a pushover like Idaho State, it will be too early to tell.
But the Cougars are certainly excited about freshman defensive tackle Toni Pole and Travis Long looks good at defensive end, too. In theory, they should enjoy some good penetration against Idaho State.
Get ready for a romp, Cougar fans. Saturday’s game won’t actually tell us much about Washington State’s forecast for 2011 – unless it goes poorly.