Washington State Betting Odds Preview
Head coach Mike Leach's attempt to kickstart this program might be working. From 2004-2011 the Cougars struggled through eight-straight non-winning and non-bowl seasons, hitting bottom by winning just five games total from '08-'10.
Washington State then went 3-9 in Leach's first season here in 2012, and last year got to 6-7 and a bowl. The next step is to pull a couple of upsets and contend in the Pac-12 North. Leach created a lot of excitement at Texas Tech not too long ago, and anticipation is building in Pullman.
Washington State started 4-2 last year, with a win at USC and a tough loss at eventual national runner-up Auburn. The Cougars then lost three in a row to Oregon State, Oregon and Arizona State, giving up a ton of yards and points. Wazzu then won at Arizona and beat Utah, before losing a tough one to Washington in the Apple Cup. The Cougars then ended on a down note, blowing a big lead and losing late to Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl to finish 6-7 SU, 9-4 ATS.
Despite the 2-5 finish the Cougars improved from 1-8 in conference play in 2012 to 4-5 last year, and they're now 11-7 ATS in conference play under Leach.
This year Wazzu returns 14 starters, one less than last year. Eight are back on offense, including senior QB Connor Halliday (63 percent completions, 4,600 yards, but 22 interceptions last year) and the entire receiving corps, but they'll have to replace three along the offensive line. And six starters are back on defense, although they'll have to replace last year's top two tacklers.
The Cougars will play what Phil Steele ranks as the 18th-toughest schedule in the nation this year, and yet it has its charms. They start with three winnable non-conference games, later play at Utah, Stanford, Oregon State and Arizona State, but get five Pac-12 home games, and miss UCLA. Washington State could easily be 3-0 headed into the Oregon game Sept. 20 and at least 5-1 going to Stanford. Three of their last five games are in Pullman, and if bowl-eligibility comes down to the final weekend Wazzu hosts the Apple Cup.
The Cougars are going to score some points again this season; their fate depends upon the performance of their defense.
Pac-12 Championship Odds at Bovada as of August 5
Arizona State 12/1
Oregon State 33/1
Washington State 50/1
Washington State won three games in its first season under new head coach Mike Leach last year, which was disappointing. The Cougars had some talent, especially on offense, and five or six wins seemed attainable. But an eight-game losing streak put a damper on those thoughts. So it's been a decade now since Wazzu played in a bowl, and in this day and age, when over half of college football teams go bowling, that's an embarrassment. Unfortunately, it might take some doing to break that bowl drought this year, too.
Washington State had 13 returning starters for its first season with coach Leach last year, and despite just nine wins total over the previous four seasons there was some hope of earning a bowl bid. And the Cougars started 2-1, although those two wins came against Eastern Washington and UNLV. WSU then had a chance to get to 3-1 and open Pac-12 play with a victory but blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead and lost at home to lowly Colorado.
The Cougars also lost their next seven games. They played Oregon tough for a half, played Oregon State halfway tough, and only lost by a touchdown to eventual conference champion Stanford. But they also lost to a bad Cal team and got blown out by Utah, UCLA (down by 30 at the half), and Arizona State. Wazzu then managed to head into the offseason on a positive note, after rallying from a 28-10 fourth-quarter deficit to beat rival Washington in the Apple Cup game. So the Cougars finished 3-9 overall, 1-8 in Pac-12 play, and 5-7 ATS. But they went 5-4 ATS in Pac-12 play, which gives them a 16-11 ATS record over the past three seasons vs. conference foes.
This year Washington State returns 16 starters; seven are back on offense, including QB Connor Halliday and four along the offensive line, although that line allowed an FBS-high 57 sacks last year; and nine are back on defense, although that unit gave up 426 YPG last year. So there's work to be done on both sides of the ball. This year's schedule calls for the Cougars to open with road trips to Auburn and USC, before playing two winnable home games against Southern Utah and Idaho. From there on out State plays home games against Stanford, Oregon State, Arizona State, and Utah, and road games at Cal, Oregon, Arizona, and Washington. So unfortunately the Cougars have to deal with all the expected contenders in the Pac-12, except UCLA.
Pac-12 Championship Odds at 5Dimes as of August 11
Oregon State +1050
Arizona State +1100
Washington State +6000