2011 Non-Conference Preview: UNLV Vs. Washington State

Washington State at a glance...

 

Head Coach Paul Wulff
Record 2-10
Bowl Game None

In many ways, Washington State was the UNLV of the Pac-10 last season. The Cougars were a terrible 2-10, with their only wins coming over FCS opponent Montana State (by a mere point, I might add) and Oregon State, who fell apart at the end of last season. In their 10 losses, the average margin between the two teams was three touchdowns. This was just the latest of horrible seasons under Paul Wulff, who will be entering his fourth season as head coach at WSU. In the two prior seasons, Washington State was 2-11 with 1 conference victory and 1-11 with no wins in conference. Luckily for Wulff, the Athletic Director at Washington State seems to like the current head coach and an improvement to 4 or 5 wins might do the trick for Wulff to keep his job.

In order for that to happen, the Cougars' offensive line will have to grow up in a hurry. Only 2 starters return along the line, and one of those changed positions from left guard to right tackle. Washington State does return a stellar QB in Jeff Tuel and his top two targets in Marques Wilson and Isiah Barton, but without an offensive line to protect the quarterback, the passing game won't get very far.

WSU loses their starter at running back from last season in James Montgomery and senior Logwone Mitz will step in for him. Mitz had 263 yards and averaged 3.6 YPC last season backing up Montgomery. He will have to show up in a big way this season in order to keep the defense at bay and allow the Cougars' passing game some breathing room. Unless Mitz has a breakout season, then the Washington State offense looks like it will really struggle.

The offense isn't the only thing that looks like it could struggle in the upcoming season, the defense also will be missing experience at key positions - particularly the defensive line. Only DE Travis Long returns along the line for the Cougars and that could definitely give the defense trouble, if your defensive line can't pass rush well or stop the run effectively (See: UNLV, 2010) then the defense as a whole will struggle.

WSU's secondary and linebacking core is where most of their starters return. Only a change at OLB shows up for Washington State when you look at their returning starters, and that could be key as to whether or not the defense succeeds. If the defensive line is able to get its act together, then the Cougars might actually have a stellar defense.

Washington State's style of play is more like that of a Big 12 team, the Cougars like to pass the ball a lot and don't pay too much attention on defense. This will definitely be shown even more now with a quarterback returning who threw for 2,780 yards last season as well as his top two targets coming back. Expect to see a lot of throws and a lot of short-timed possessions for WSU.

This game could actually be the best UNLV game to watch this season for Rebel fans. These teams have so much in common that it's almost ridiculous really. Both teams are terrible in the trenches yet have some serious talent at the skill positions on offense. They both return a lot of talent in the secondary and had horrible defenses last season. These teams are so evenly matched that it's hard to give a score prediction, but I'm going to say that UNLV pulls out the win, if only by a touchdown or less.

2011 Washington State Cougars Football Schedule


Cougars Football Schedule

Idaho St. Sat 09/03 TBA
UNLV Sat 09/10 TBA
@ San Diego St. Sat 09/17 3:00 PM PDT
@ Colorado Sat 10/01 TBA
@ UCLA Sat 10/08 TBA
Stanford Sat 10/15 TBA
@ Oregon St. Sat 10/22 TBA
@ Oregon Sat 10/29 TBA
@ California Sat 11/05 TBA
Arizona St. Sat 11/12 TBA
Utah Sat 11/19 TBA
@ Washington Sat 11/26 TBA

 

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