Washington State Cougars
Head Coach: Mike Leach
2014 record: 3-9 overall, 2-7 Pac 12 North
2014 Postseason results: None
2015 returning starters: 7 offense, 6 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 350/1
Odds to win 2015 Pac 12 Championship Game: 200/1
Odds to Win 2015 Pac 12 North Division: 45/1
Regular season wins: under 5 -145 / over 5 +115
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Mick Leach is just 12-25 in three seasons as the head coach at Washington State. After a miserable 3-9 season last year, Leach could be on the hot seat if the Cougars don’t show some improvement in 2015. The wins came at home over Portland State and at Utah and Oregon State. There were narrow losses against Oregon and California.
Washington State gets 13 starters back in 2015. A return to a bowl isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
As with any team that runs Leach’s patented Air Raid Offense, the Cougars put up huge numbers. Washington State was #7 in total offense nationally at 518 yards per game. The Cougars led the nation in passing at 478 yards per game but were dead last in rushing at a paltry 40 yards per game. The huge passing numbers did not translate to points on the scoreboard as WSU averaged only 32 points a game. This is because the Cougars were -17 in turnovers. Leach serves as his own offensive coordinator and gets 7 starters back.
Sophomore quarterback Luke Falk takes over as the full time starter after the departure of Connor Halliday. Falk started several games last season in place of an injured Halliday. Falk completed 64.2% of his passes for 1,859 yards with 13 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in five games. He threw for 601 yards with 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in a loss to Arizona State. He threw 5 touchdowns passes against Oregon State. Freshman Peyton Bender is the back-up.
For what it’s worth the top two running backs return for the Cougars. Jamal Morrow had 87 carries for 351 yards, and also made 61 catches for 460 yards. Gerald Wicks had 62 carries for 234 yards with 4 touchdowns, and also caught 16 passes. Converted receiver Keith Harrington has explosive speed and will also get some carries. Leach has said that the Cougars will run the ball more in 2015.
Washington State must replace their top two receivers. Vince Mayle is now with the Cleveland Browns after making 106 catches for 1,483 yards and 9 touchdowns. Isiah Myers had 78 catches for 972 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Cougars do get Gabe Marks back who missed all of last season with an injury. In 2013, he had 74 catches for 807 yards and 7 touchdowns to lead the team in all three categories. River Cracraft had 66 catches for 771 yards and 8 touchdowns and is also back. Dom Williams is also back after making 43 catches for 656 yards with 9 touchdowns. Robert Lewis will also start at receiver after making 41 catches for 370 yards and 2 touchdowns.
All five starters are back on the offensive line. However, the unit struggled in both run blocking and pass protection allowing 36 sacks. There are three seniors and two juniors so they should show improvement with so many veterans.
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Last year, the Cougars gave up 442 yards including 297 passing yards. Washington State was second to last nationally in pass defense. The Cougars allowed 39 points per game on defense. Six starters are back for new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch who takes over for the fired Mike Breske.
Defensive end Destiny Vaeao is the only returning starter on the line. Daniel Ekuale and Darryl Paulo will be the other two starters on the line. Kache Palacio is a hybrid end/outside linebacker.
Jeremiah Allison and Peyton Pellular will start at linebacker as the Cougars move to a nickel defense. Grinch has said the front seven needs to get more pressure on the quarterback.
Grinch was previously the secondary coach at Missouri and the unit should be improved with three starters back. Darius Lemora moves from safety to nickelback. Cornerback Charleston White and safety Taylor Taliulu are also back.
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Quentin Breshears replaced Erik Powell as the kicker after a slow start from Powell. Breshears made 9 of 12 field goals, and Powell made 2 of 5. Both will compete for the job in fall camp. Powell will also compete with Matt Abramo for the punting job. Marcellus Pippin will likely return kicks and punts.
Washington State opens the season at home against Portland State, before traveling to Rutgers. The Cougars close out September and the non-conference schedule at home against Wyoming. In October, WSU has road games at California, Oregon, and Arizona and hosts Oregon State and Stanford. In November, the Cougars have home games against Arizona State and Colorado, and travels to UCLA and Washington.
The Cougars should still be explosive on offense, but the defense will still struggle even with some improvement. With a tough conference schedule, I can’t see more than 5 wins for this team.
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