In his yearly 130-team breakdown, Bill Connelly has projected that Washington State will finish the 2018 season 7-5 with an S&P+ ranking of 41st. After finishing last season 9-4 and ranked 39th in S&P+, Connelly goes in depth at why the Cougars will have a tough season.
One of Connelly’s biggest reasons as to why it will be a tough season is because there will be a lot of new faces this year on both the field and on the sidelines with coaches. The Cougars lost the Pac-12 record holder in every major passing category, their top two outside receivers, an All-American offensive lineman, and an All-American defensive lineman. Eight new assistant coaches will be on the sidelines or in the coaches box this season after losing a lot of key minds to other teams.
Replacing those lost to graduation currently seems like one that Cougar fans should worry the least about. Gardner Minshew, Trey Tinsley, Anthony Gordon, Connor Neville, and Cammon Cooper all have the ability to take over the quarterback spot. The problem here is: who steps up to take the lead.
While losing their top two outside receivers, they return a lot of their main inside receivers. Kyle Sweet, Renard Bell, and Jamire Calvin all combined for 7.1 yards per target at the slot position and return this year. Even those returning on the outside have had success. Dezmon Patton and Tay Martin combined for 7.5 yards per target last season.
Due to the success of the years past, young talented receivers have been waiting for their chance to take over at the receiver position. Five new freshman receivers and a junior college transfer all have the ability to break out this year as well.
Most of the defense returns this year and the Cougars will return Peyton Pelluer who was granted a sixth year of eligibility this past winter. The problem here is the Cougars losing their genius defensive coordinator in Alex Grinch. Tracy Claeys will have a veteran defense to work his magic with, but new coaches bring new schemes.
As for the schedule, Connelly has the Cougars going 4-2 in their first six games before finishing the second half of the season .500. Of the five losses that he projects, two are one possession games with two more being losses by 10-points or more (USC by 11.1 and Washington by 16.1.) The one that falls in the middle is a 9-point loss at Stanford who is on a two-game losing streak to the Cougars.
So, how close has Connelly’s projections come the past few years?
In 2014 their win probability record was 4-8 and the Cougars finished 3-9. In 2015 they were projected to go 7-6 and they finished 9-4. in 2016 they were projected to go 6-6 and finished 8-5. last season they were projected to go 6-6 again and finished 9-4. this season they are projected to go 7-5. How will the new faces start their careers at Washington State this season?
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