Previewing the Season: Washington State Cougars

Ah, the Washington State Cougars, or as we may as well call them, BYE. I know we talk about not overlooking opponents, but this is a team that is just absolutely terrible.

Last year's Washington State team (despite somehow managing two wins) was one of the worst teams to play D-1A football. The Sagarin computer rankings had then ranked 138th in the nation, which had them behind a slew of D-1AA schools. They were outgained by 200 yards per game (even with a schedule padded with Portland State). They gave up over 40 points per game. The only thing they managed to do was beat Washington. If not for that victory, we would be talking about the 2008 Cougars as one of the worst Pac-10 teams of the past 20 years.

Now, we may see a bit of a rebound for WSU, as they had a slew of injury problems last year and we can hope that their turnovers will go down, but this is still a terrible football team. They won't be quite as bad as last year, but that's not really saying much.

Oregon Offense vs. WSU Defense:

Last year, the WSU rushing defense was (according to S&P+)  ranked115th in the country. And while you would think it has to get better, well, maybe not. If Phil Steele is to be trusted, Washington State has the worst defensive line and linebacking groups in the Pac-10. There isn't a great deal of returning experience, nor talent. While we may see an improvement in production, this team will still likely have the worst rushing defense in the Pac-10, likely by a long shot.

The WSU secondary does return a unit that was almost respectable in terms of production. But then again, let's keep in mind that this team rarely had to face any sort of passing attack because opponents could run at will.

Overall, Oregon should have no problem doing whatever they want in this game. They are more physically talented in every matchup. If WSU can hold Oregon to less than 500 yards, it would be shocking.

Washington State Offense vs. Oregon Defense:

While Washington State's defense was bad, the statline for the WSU offense was even worse. Looking at all the varitions of S&P+ (which include success rate, points per play, close situations, etc.), the WSU offense was not better than 100th in the country. Let that sink in for just a moment. In every conceivably way, they were one of the worst offenses in the country. In passing offense, they ranked 120th. In rushing offense, they ranked 110th. Overall, they came in 122nd in the country in overall S&P+. It takes a lot to be that bad at a single category. But they were terrible at every aspect of the game.

While some improvement is to be expected in coach Wulff's second year, what does that mean. Even with a healthy QB, and some more O-line experience, this is not a talented unit. Scoring points will not be easy, and every drive will be a struggle.

Conclusion:

It's simply amazing that WSU was contending for conference titles in this decade. This is a program that is a shell of what it used to be, and it will be very tough to get back to where they were. While improvement should be expected for WSU, they will still be unable to compete with the top half of the conference.

All advanced statistics courtesy of Bill Connelly of RockMNation. For more information on these stats, please see this primer.

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