Week 1 Opponent: Washington State Cougars. Pullman vs. Provo
In week 1, we get the BYU alumnus coaching the opposing Cougars while the non-BYU alumnus helms the Cougars in blue (though we’ll be in all white for the game, but I digress.)
Coaching: Mike Leach vs. Bronco Mendenhall
We know what we’re getting the Bronco by now. He’s going to bring a steady approach to the team and a fierce, hard-hitting style of defense. Offensive Coordinator Brandon Doman will bring a simpler offense with fewer sets, thus preventing opposing defenses from stacking against his offense and taking away his game plan.
On the other side of the field Mike Leach brings his Texas Tech “air raid” to Pullman and has the red iteration of the Cougars giddier than they’ve been in years. In ten seasons in Lubbock, Texas, he went 84-43 and went to a bowl game all ten seasons. He has brought in some monumentally experienced talent that should provide some immediate consistency to the team, but also because of familiarity, an immediate buy-in and understanding of the offense Leach likes to run. Just a quick snippet to give you an idea of who this man is what his “air raid” attack brings to Washington State:
“The interesting thing about football is that football is the only sport where you quit playing when you get a lead. In golf, you keep trying to score well when you’re ahead. In basketball, they don’t quit shooting when they’re ahead. In hockey, they don’t quit shooting when they’re ahead. In boxing, you don’t quit punching when you’re ahead. But in football, somehow, magically, you’re supposed to quit playing when you’re ahead. Well, I don’t subscribe to that. I don’t do it like that.”
Offense: Brandon Doman vs. Mike Leach
I’d be lying if I didn’t say this matchup scares me. Fortunately, while the red Cougar offense will likely be incredibly potent, the blue’s defense will be able to provide some stops and the blue’s offense will be balanced and focused on ball control, thus limiting the opportunities that Leach and his offense will have to toss the ball.
At quarterback, they return a senior named Jeff Tuel. He’s been injury-plagued (we know that feeling don’t we?) but also good when healthy. And to his benefit, he’s got a future NFL draftee to throw to named Marquess Wilson who caught 82 balls last season for 1388 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has big play potential and I would not be surprised to see the junior grab 100 passes this season for 1500 and 15. But for all the big time he has in Wilson, the rest of the receiving corp is unproven and will have to step up to shoulder some of the load. But given the propensity with which Leach’s offenses toss the ball, you could see some 5 receivers snag 45 balls or more this season.
The running game is an after-thought. Sophomore Ricky Galvin is a dula-threat kind of guy out of the backfield and because of that, he’s a potential 1500 all-purpose yard kind of player.
Defense: Bronco Mendenhall vs. Mike Breske
Ahem. This defense was awful last year and with a lack of depth, a transition in coaching staffs, and a move from a 4-3 base to a 3-4 base, this defense is going to look lost at times. As prolific as this offense will be THIS year, this defense is going to look equally lost. A few bright spots stand out and you’ll want to keep an eye on them as Provo’s hometown heroes take the field offensively.
Travis Long is the first guy and he moves from defensive end to outside linebacker – the buck in this system. What this will do is allow for more speed on the field from sideline to sideline. This defense will still show some 4-3, probably more in the early part of the season as they get used to new assignments and Long will get back to putting his hand on the field. But he’s the only bright spot along the front 7. The secondary returns most of its pieces from last year, however, this secondary was shredded last fall so that isn’t much of a bright spot. If this defense is unable to get a push at the line of scrimmage, they are going to leave these guys open to an air raid of their own each week and they aren’t likely good enough to compete against the caliber of talent at quarterback that the PAC 12 boasts.
Final thoughts: Washington State limped to 4 wins last season. They really only have three “easier” games on the schedule and with focus they should beat Eastern Washington, UNLV and Colorado. You can easily chalk up losses to Oregon, Stanford, Cal, Utah, and UCLA. That leaves games at Oregon State, home to UCLA, and at BYU. They can beat OSU with some focus, UCLA will be a tough game for them, and I’ll treat BYU in a moment. By my calculations (not including BYU) they will have a four wins at season’s end. If their defense can hold up just enough, I think they can surprise a few teams this season, but I’m not really hopeful. As for BYU, the losing team in the three game history of this series has scored at least 36 points. And while I initially didn’t believe that would be the case this year, I think BYU may need to put up 35 + points to get the job done on Thursday night. I think they do.
BYU: 38 Wash St: 32