It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see
A top-20 ranking, a 3-0 record, and their starting quarterback is clicking with the offense again. Things are quite alright in Cougardom, I tell you what.
This Saturday, for the fourth straight weekend, they get to enjoy the comforts of home as they look at what may very well be the easiest game on their schedule this year. The Nevada Wolf Pack are, to my and many others’ surprise, 0-3 with a baffling loss to the Idaho State Bengals that actually found them down more than three touchdowns at one point during that game.
How baffling of a loss? Idaho State has won more than three games just twice in the last 12 years, including a four year run where they won one game in three different seasons.
So ... very, very baffling would probably be appropriate.
Nevada comes into Pullman with a freshman quarterback making his first start, a team ranked 117th in overall S&P, and a defense that’s just barely better. They’re a Mountain West team that seems to be in full rebuild mode, a task taller than the one Jay Norvell probably envisioned before moving to Reno. The Cougs are favored by 28 points, a margin larger than any against an FBS team dating back to 2013’s contest with Idaho when they were laying 31.5 points.
Put simply, this is a team the Washington State Cougars should wax.
Now, I’ve said/written many times that it’s fine for fans to look ahead. Hell, I write bowl projection posts in week three of the season because we, as fans, are allowed to look that far ahead and because we, as fans, can have fun with it. It’s the great part of being a fan; you don’t need to worry about your preparedness on a week-to-week basis and those that try to take the fun out of looking ahead would likely scream at you to get off their lawn.
So, with that in mind, there’s only one thing bothering me about the Wolf Pack: the calendar.
It’s perfectly natural for football players to look forward to big games. As excited as we get, they are the ones actually playing in the game, showing what they’ve got to a TV audience that will likely be bigger than most Friday night games. I wouldn’t blame them at all if the Trojans were on their minds.
But Nevada comes first. Despite their struggles, this is a team that hung with the Northwestern Wildcats and Toledo Rockets before tripping over themselves last weekend. We all said before the season that this is a trap game and despite Nevada being down further than any of us really expected, it still can be.
It’s an old trope and I like to say I try to avoid cliches (I don’t but do me the dignity of allowing me to think I’m not this guy) but WSU cannot look past the Wolf Pack. I would’ve been fine with and, hell, predicted they’d be 3-1 going into next week’s contest. But the loss coming to Nevada? It would be a different year, same vintage of a team that lost to Portland State and Eastern Washington: expected records a third of the way through the season but getting there in a very, very weird way.
This should be an easy win; one where we see Tyler Hilinski in the fourth quarter not because Luke Falk needs motivation but because the barn doors have already been blown off. A 4-0 record when the ball is kicked against USC ... I can only imagine how electric the stadium will be.
But you’ve got to get past this Saturday first. That is, after all, how calendars work.
“What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.”
The calendar, the most important person against Nevada.