San Jose State Non-Conference Preview: Washington State
This game will definitely test the Spartans secondary
The San Jose State Spartans second game of the season will be in Pullman, Washington, against the Cougars. This game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network at 8 PM PST.
About the Washington State athletic program: The Cougars play in the Pac-12 North division at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Washington. They have not always had the strongest football program as they have won there conference 4 times, the last coming in 2002. Although the past few years have been more on the upswing this upcoming season could be a tough one as there are many questions entering the season.
Coach: Mike Leach, 38-38 in 7 seasons
2017 Record: 9-4
2017 Season in Review: 2017 may have been the best season Washington State fans have seen since they won the conference in 2002. As with any Mike Leach team, of course, they had an amazing offense throwing the ball probably more than anyone else in the country. Bill Conley posted a stat that the Cougars threw the ball more on standard downs (69 percent of the time) than the average team does on passing downs (65 percent). What pushed Washington State into the discussion of a Pac-12 championship is how they were able to improve there defense.
Three years ago they were ranked at 101 in S&P+ but last season they were all the way up to 29th.
With a future NFL quarterback in Luke Faulk and two All-American linemen in Cody O’Connell and Hercules Mata’afa, the Cougars were primed to have one of the best seasons in school history. They started the season off 6-0 beating USC and Oregon in the process. In what was shocking at the time, they then went on the road to Berkeley and had were held to only 3 points in there first loss.
Washington State would win the next week, but the following week would lose in the desert to Arizona as Khalil Tate had a field day. They would win the next two against Stanford and Utah but would end the regular season losing against rival Washington in the Apple Cup. In disappointing fashion, the Cougars finished the season with a loss to Michigan State in the Holiday Bowl.
2018 Strengths: There is no overwhelming strength, but the Cougars do have a couple of nice pieces to work with for the 2018 season. The Cougars run an Air Raid offense, but the uncertainty at who will be the starting quarterback raises many questions about how much the offense will be an asset. Most likely I believe Mike Leach will find the right guy and with running back James Williams, who can also catch the ball, coming back Washington State should be okay offensively. Leach has shown over the years, even back to his Texas Tech days, he is capable of running a pretty effective offense. Other strengths include Washington State getting Linebacker Peyton Pelluer back from injury and 2nd Team All-Conference DB Jalen Thompson returning.
2018 Weaknesses: Losing Luke Faulk is going to hurt, but just how much is yet to be determined. Cougars fans should expect some type of drop off from the offense with a new starting quarterback being broken in. Washington State also lost there defensive coordinator who had gradually improved the defense from one of the worst in the nation into a pretty good one. Over the past 3 years they had gradually gotten better each season, but with a new coordinator and many new position group coaches, we will see if this trend continues especially with losing DL Hercules Mat’afa.