This is the latest in our series of stories previewing the 2017 Washington State Cougars football season. For previous installments, click here.
Gambling Football season is almost upon us, and I could not be happier. Like an idiot, I volunteered to help out with the preview in 2016 for the first time and had absolutely no idea what I would do to contribute. Ipso facto, some stuff was thrown at the wall and the WSU season prop bets were born.
This little exercise became interesting pretty quickly, as it forced me to look at last season’s stats in an attempt to find these props. It also showed me how last year’s props turned out, so let’s review.
Luke Falk touchdown passes + interceptions (-200) vs. the WSU defense's sacks + interceptions (+150): Falk ended with 49 TDs/INTs, while the defense only compiled 32 sacks/INTs. One good, one not so good.
Gabe Marks receiving yards and touchdowns (+100) vs. the combined rushing yards and touchdowns for the top three running backs (-120): The 2015 numbers were pretty close. The 2016 numbers were a boat race for the running backs. Marks had 894 yards (a decent drop from 2015) while the running backs skyrocketed and won easily.
Luke Falk rushing TDs (-125) vs. Fat Guy TDs (+105): Going back into this bet showed me something I hadn’t realized - WSU didn’t score a defensive touchdown in 2016. There were three special teams scores by Gerard Wicks, Marcellus Pippins and Robert Taylor, but zippo from the defense. Seems like they’d at least stumble into one, but nope. As for this prop, neither one happened.
Fake punt or kick touchdown (+300) vs. Kick return or punt return touchdown (-250): I don’t recall a fake punt last season, other than the Kyle Sweet’s ill-fated try at OSU that nearly sealed a loss. Robert Taylor took a kick all the way back against ASU, getting them back in the game and marking the first time in over a decade the Cougs had done that.
Let’s get on with this season.
WSU wins (+ 200) vs. Falk INTs (-175): The Cougs won eight games last season, while Falk threw 11 interceptions. This bet would have been pretty darn close last season if WSU would have taken care of business, and I expect it to be close this season. While I don’t think the Cougs will threaten 11 wins, I definitely see a scenario in which Falk throws fewer than 10 picks. In 2015, he threw just eight.
Erik Powell field goal attempts (-225) vs. Erik Powell punts (+150): In 2016, Erik Powell attempted 15 field goals, converting just nine of them. Not good, Bob! Powell’s punting in the bowl game was somewhat of a revelation, as he averaged 48.7 yards per boot, including a 68 yarder, after not having punted all season.
As I watched this, aside from being pissed that WSU was having to punt so many damn times, I openly wondered why Powell had not been punting all along. If you combine Powell and Zach Charme’s punts from 2016 they equal, you guessed it, 15. How ‘bout we all forget this Kyle Sweet nonsense and just let Powell punt? No? Whatever.
Luke Falk completion percentage (Even) vs. WSU’s red zone touchdown percentage (-125): In 2016, Falk completed 70% of his passes, which was almost identical to his 69.8 completion percentage in 2015. Falk’s number in 2017 will depend largely on how many shots he takes down field. He has often seemed hesitant to do that, so if you think it will be more of the same, I’d expect his percentage to go up a point or two.
In 2015, WSU scored 36 touchdowns on 55 red zone possessions, good for a 65 percent conversion rate. Their red zone opportunities went up to 71 in 2016 and they scored 50 TDs, which comes to, you guessed it, 70 percent. While the running game may not take as big a leap from 2016 to 2017 as it did the year prior, the three-or-four-headed monster could easily get the Cougs up to 75 or 80 percent, especially if Leach continues to go for it on fourth down.
WSU average scoring margin (-150) vs. Defensive Interceptions (+125): The Cougs outscored their opponents by an average of 11.8 points-per-game in 2016. Imagine how much better that would have been if the defense had mustered more than 12 interceptions. Departed players accounted for seven of those. Uh oh. This is a case where WSU’s scoring margin will almost certainly increase if the defense generates more INTs. If the interception number is to increase, the front seven absolutely has to get more pressure on the opposing quarterback. I think the Cougs can get to 15, but it will take a monumental effort. Give me the scoring margin.
So there you have it. Let’s hear what you think of those, and feel free to come up with some props of your own. Last season, I also had a prop regarding my lack of sleep on Saturday nights, but the odds were so bad this year that there’s no reason to revisit that. Kill Eastern time. Kill it with fire.