Scouting the Opposition

… Previews for Colorado State, Texas State, Northern Colorado and Washington can be found here … UCLA preview can be found here … Arizona preview can be found here … Oregon State preview can be found here

Game Eight – at Washington State – October 21st

… November 19, 2016 – No. 12 Colorado 47, No. 20 Washington State 24 … Sefo Liufau passed for 345 yards, rushing for another 108 yards and three touchdowns, leading No. 12 Colorado to a 38-24 victory over No. 20 Washington State. The victory, the first for head coach Mike MacIntyre against a ranked team, witnessed 603 yards of total offense from the Buffs, while holding the Cougars to a season-low 24 points.

“He’s the poster boy of our team,” Buff cornerback Chidobe Awuzie said of Liufau. “Everyone from the outside looking in, that’s what Colorado football looks like. He never quits.

“On the interior, in the locker room, we look at him like the guy who’s going to lead us to the promised land. He goes down, but he always comes back. That tough mindset, that gritty mindset — that’s what this team is built on because that’s who he is and that’s who we are.”

Phillip Lindsay had 31 carries for 144 yards and two touchdowns, with the receiving corps being led by Devin Ross, who had eight catches for 121 yards.

… The 2016 CU/Washington State game story, “Giving Thanks“, can be found here …

2016 Washington State results – 8-5 (7-2 in Pac-12 play) … lost to Minnesota, 17-12, in the Holiday Bowl

– Returning starters, Offense: 7 … Returning starters, Defense: 9

– 2016 National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 18th … 38.2 points per game  (Colorado – 51st … 31.1 points per game)

— Rushing – 114th … 120.0 yards per game  (Colorado – 56th … 182.6 yards per game)

— Passing – 3rd … 362.5 yards per game  (Colorado – 47th … 254.5 yards per game)

— Total – 18th … 482.5 yards per game  (Colorado – 47th … 437.1 yards per game)

– 2016 National Rankings (Defense)

— Scoring – 50th … 26.4 points per game  (Colorado – 20th … 21.7 points per game)

— Rushing – 29th … 134.2 yards per game  (Colorado – 44th … 148.9 yards per game)

— Passing – 112th … 271.7 yards per game  (Colorado – 20th … 193.6 yards per game)

— Total – 62nd … 405.9 yards per game  (Colorado – 19th … 342.5 yards per game)

How the Buffs fit into the Cougars’ 2017 schedule

Washington State doesn’t leave home until October, playing its first five games of the 2017 season in the friendly confines of Martin Stadium in Pullman. If the Cougars can get past their Big Sky Conference opponent in the opener – something they have failed to do the past two seasons – then perennial Mountain West conference power Boise State comes calling in Week Two.

The Pac-12 opener for Washington State is Oregon State on September 16th, followed by a visit by the Nevada Wolfpack and USC. The Cougars finally leave the state of Washington for dates against Oregon and Cal before returning home to face the Buffs.

Washington State won’t fall in its opener (Montana State is not as good as Portland State and Eastern Washington – trust me on this one). The Boise State game, however, is more problematic. The Broncos prevailed in Boise last season, 31-28, dropping the Cougars to 0-2 (WSU then won eight straight, rising to No. 20 before falling to the Buffs in Boulder).

Oregon State will be an interesting test, but Nevada (5-7 in 2016) probably won’t. USC, even in Pullman, is almost certainly a loss, with the road games against Oregon another question mark. Cal on the road the weekend before the CU game is a probable victory, and will be on a Friday night, giving the Cougars an extra day of rest and preparation before facing Colorado.

Washington State, if as good as Cougar fans hope, could be 6-1 and nationally ranked when it faces Colorado.

Washington State, if the three losses to end the 2016 season portend cracks in the armor, could be 3-4 and in desperate need of a victory when the Buffs hit town.

 

Street and Smith’s has Washington State as the No. 3 team in the Pac-12 North, destined for the Foster Farms Bowl.

Because he’s a quarterback playing for an “Air Raid” offense, Luke Falk’s passing numbers tend to come at a discount in the eyes of the NFL scouts. Air Raid quarterbacks don’t often transition well into the NFL, but Falk has measurables beyond your typical Mike Leach quarterback – the kind of size, athleticism, and strength that makes him appear pro-ready.

… The Cougars have talent and experience throughout their front seven on defense. Leach’s team had the Pac-12’s third-best rushing defense last season, and returns quick and powerful end Hercules Mata’afa, who recorded 13.5 tackles for loss in 2016. Peyton Pelluer leads the experienced linebacking crew, while the secondary returns cornerback Darrien Molton and safety Jalen Thompson.

If there was a message from the Cougars’ blowout loss to Washington at Pullman, it was that a lot of room now separates the two at the top of the Pac-12 North division, with Stanford likely somewhere in between. And particularly considering Wazzu’s history of slow-starts – and a back-loaded schedule – the Cougs need to excel out of the gate this season if they want to have any chance of closing the gap.

Lindy’s has Washington State as the No. 3 team in the Pac-12 North (5th overall in the Pac-12), the No. 30 team in the nation

Primary Strengths … The Cougars have their most experienced team in more than a decade with next-level talent sprinkled about at quarterback, receiver and both lines. Falk’s numbers suggest a top ten quarterback, though he must prove it against the best teams. Left guard Cody O’Connell (the only non-skill position Pac-12 candidate for the Maxwell award, given to the nation’s most outstanding player) doesn’t have much to prove at all – he’s major league in every regard, and right tackle Cole Madison isn’t far behind.

Potential Problems … Gabe Marks and River Cracraft leave two big voids in a receiving group that may have depth, but has unproven playmakers. even with a talent like defensive end Hercules Mata’afa, the pass rush is suspect, and Shalom Luani’s departure at nickel is the Cougars’ biggest loss of all unless the secondary does a lot of growing up from a year ago.

Overview … Given all the experienced holdovers, there should be something of a “this is the year” vibe in Pullman. But it’s tempered a bit by the loss of major playmakers like Marks and Luani, and by the Cougars’ stumbling finish in 2016. The schedule – five home games to start the season – will generate momentum, but it’s time for Falk and Co. to hit better pitching.

Athlon has Oregon State as the No. 4 team in the Pac-12 North, the No. 28 team in the nation (CU is 3rd in the Pac-12 South; No. 34 overall) … Projected record: 8-4; 5-4

They get so much attention for the Air Raid stuff; they’re probably a bit underrated for how well they run the ball” – An opposing Pac-12 assistant coach

Final Analysis … With 17 wins over the last two seasons, the turnaround of the WSU football program is basically complete. Now, Leach just has to keep his pirate ship headed in the right direction. Last year the Cougars stayed in the hunt for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game all the way up until the last game of the regular season. With Falk and a number of playmakers returning, fans have plenty of reasons to expect to contend again in 2017.

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