In springs' past, Washington State’s chances at a successful season seemed to be dead before the start of July. However, Head Coach Paul Wulff has inserted a seed of hope in the minds of his beleaguered fan base. After a lively spring, Wulff stated that these were the best offseason practices that he has witnessed since he joined the program.
While these semi-sweet words definitely appear promising, it is hard to forget the not-so-distant past. It can be even harder to forget when the future is as bleak as those dreadful memories.
Although the Cougars are still several years away from contending for a North Division title, there is a light at the end of this long and dreary tunnel.
During spring activities, junior quarterback Jeff Tuel continued to flash glimpses of potential. Unbeknownst to many, Tuel finished fourth in the Pac-10 in yards per game (231.7) and is certainly capable of improving on these numbers.
But, Tuel can't do it all. The Cougars’ meager defense needs to crawl out of the hole that they have been hiding in the past decade.
The Pac-12 is filled with explosive offenses and keeping the score low on a weekly basis is practically impossible for any team in the Conference. While an improved Tuel should finally wake up the Cougars’ offense, Washington State's defense is still suspect at best.
Senior linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis and sophomore safety Deone Bucannon were bright spots for the Cougars last year and will be heavily leaned upon if the Cougars expect to improve its 110th ranked defense (35.8 p/g).
With that said, winning five overall games seems plausible but slightly difficult for Washington State. A hard fact to ignore is that the Cougars have won a total of five games over the past three seasons.
Plus, the Cougars’ schedule does not exactly play into their favor.
The first two games against Idaho State and UNLV should be the perfect way to ease into the season. But, things start to get hairy after that.
Washington State should be saddled with its first lost against the high-powered offense of San Diego State.
Then, thanks to their fourth week bye, the Cougars have nine straight weeks of Pac-12 games.
Tough road games at Colorado, UCLA, Oregon, California, and Washington will be extremely detrimental to the Cougars chances of reaching the five win total in 2011. While Washington State is certainly moving the needle in the right direction, their talent in its current state will continue to struggle against the endless power stacked in this conference.
Washington State’s Overall Record Prediction: 4-8