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45 days to Cougar Football: What game will be WSU's hardest?

It's hard to accurately predict how good opponents will be next season, but we attempt it anyway.

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

If you read the Hot Cougar Action today, you may have noticed a link which ranked WSU as the eighth-hardest opponent Rutgers will face next season. That is an interesting way to look at the season and one we're now going to do with WSU.

To determine WSU's toughest game, you need to factor in the quality of the opponent and the location of the game. Oregon will be a tough game for WSU next season, but it would be an even bigger challenge if the game was in Eugene instead of Pullman. You can also factor in the various other components of the season. Fourth week on the road, coming off a bye, etc. Let's take a closer look at the schedule.

Week Opponent
Week 1 vs. Rutgers (Seattle)
Week 2 @ Nevada
Week 3 vs. Portland State
Week 4 vs. Oregon
Week 5 @ Utah
Week 6 vs. California
Week 7 @ Stanford
Week 8 BYE
Week 9 vs. Arizona
Week 10 vs. USC
Week 11 @ Oregon State
Week 12 @ Arizona State
Week 13 vs. Washington

I think we can clear some of the clutter right off the bat. Portland State is not going to be WSU's toughest game. Neither is California at home or Rutgers in Seattle. The Scarlet Knights might be good and WSU could lose that game, but I can't see it being the toughest on the schedule.

The home games against Oregon and USC and the road game against Stanford immediately pop out to me as candidates for the toughest. Some are predicting Stanford to take a little step back next season, but the game is still on the road and comes at the end of a seven games in seven weeks stretch. The road game at Arizona State is another candidate. It will be the second straight game on the road and the week before the Apple Cup.

There are a few directions you could go with this, but I think I'm taking the road game at Stanford as WSU's toughest of the season. I'm not convinced Oregon isn't in slow decline without Chip Kelly and I think the toll of the season will make winning at Stanford a very tough task.

Remember, we're talking about the toughest game of the season, not the toughest opponent. Who's your pick?