Washington State (2-1) at Colorado (1-3)
With the bye week behind them, the Washington State Cougars begin conference play with two crucial road games at Colorado and UCLA.
By most accounts, these games could be “winnable” for the 2-1 Cougars.
Can quarterback Marshall Lobbestael get WSU back into the win column at Colorado this week as Jeff Tuel’s eventual return looms?
For a team that won just two games all last season, it’s downright impressive to see Washington State ranked fourth, fifth and sixth in the country in passing yards per game, points per game and total yards per game, respectively.
Particularly through the air and particularly via Lobbestael’s arm, the Cougars have moved the ball plenty.
That said, they failed their first test against a legit opponent two weeks ago against San Diego State. The defense let WSU down more than the offense, allowing 227 rushing yards. Colorado doesn’t project to be as tough as San Diego State but should give the Cougars more trouble than UNLV did in Week 2.
Colorado has done a solid job throwing the ball this season. Quarterback Tyler Hansen has 1,150 passing yards, nine touchdowns and one interception.
He’s developed a solid rapport with wideout Paul Richardson.
It’s possible that the Buffalo defense will give Lobbestael and the Washington State offense their toughest test so far.
Despite facing Hawaii and Ohio State so far this season, Colorado has the 34th-ranked defense in the country and is 27th against the pass.
Against a tougher defense, how will Lobbestael fare? He has just two interceptions on the year but they both came in the Cougars’ last game against San Diego State.
Tuel (broken collarbone) will throw with pads on next week and will likely be fit to play in Week 7 when WSU returns home to host Stanford. But is it a guarantee that Tuel gets his starting job back?
Based on Cougars coach Paul Wulff’s carefully chosen words this week, it seems the door remains slightly ajar for Lobbestael:
“We haven’t gotten to that. We’ll see how Marshall continues to play. At this point, I’d say if Jeff is healthy, he’ll be our starting quarterback.”
It sounds like Lobbestael still has a starting job to play for this week.
Should be fun.