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Can the Cougs get to six wins in 2018?

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The team has a lot of production to replace this offseason

Nevada v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

The Washington State Cougars have reached bowl eligibility with relative ease the last three seasons, but six wins is not a guarantee as they look to 2018. After losing plenty of production from the 2017 team, WSU will need young players to step up and replace a talented graduating class.

The team’s two stars, Luke Falk and Hercules Mata’afa, are both gone, and so are a slew of other starters. While the talent may not take a huge dropoff from Jamal Morrow to Max Borghi, the level of experience will.

In addition to the personnel changes, WSU experienced a large amount of turnover on the coaching staff. Six assistants are gone from a year ago, and their replacements will have to form a cohesive group.

Pacific Takes published their early bowl projections for the Pac-12 and Jack Follman thinks that Mike Leach is good enough to get the Cougs at least six wins. He projects the Cougs to the Cactus Bowl which feels about right to me.

The Spokesman-Review’s Theo Lawson also broke down the schedule on Thursday. After reading Theo’s piece, I think bowl eligibility will depend on how WSU does in non-conference play. Outside the Pac-12, the Cougs will play Eastern Washington, Wyoming, and San Jose State. All of those games should be wins. They also get to play Oregon State, who looked more Mountain West than Pac-12 in 2017.

However, if they lose to one of their non-conference opponents the task of making it to a bowl gets considerably harder. Winning three games in the Pac-12 against teams other than the Beavers seems like a lot to ask from an inexperienced WSU squad. If the Cougs can manage a 3-0 start though, I like their chances to go bowling.

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Football:

2018 post-spring Pacific Takes Pac-12 bowl projections: Washington to Rose Bowl and Stanford to Fiesta Bowl - Pacific Takes
Cactus Bowl - Washington State vs. Iowa State - The Cougars are still soaring under Mike Leach, even if this is a bit of a step back.

From worst to first, ranking the 12 teams on Washington State’s 2018 schedule | The Spokesman-Review
Washington State could see a College Football Playoff finalist this fall. It could also see a Mountain West Conference bottom-feeder – and everything in between. On the toughness scale, it doesn’t get any harder than the Washington Huskies or any easier than the San Jose State Spartans.

Washington State football: Our Wazzu special teams depth chart if season started tomorrow
Cougar gunners shaping up as formidable group.

Women’s Basketball:

Ashley Gill Accepts Assistant Coach Position With Utah State Women's Basketball - Utah State Official Athletic Site - Women's Basketball
Gill joins the Aggies after spending nine seasons on the women's basketball staff at Washington State. She spent three seasons as a team manager and video coordinator before being named an assistant coach prior to the 2012-13 season.

Athletics:

Audit finds mismanagement in Washington State Cougars athletics program
An internal audit completed in April found that the Washington State athletic department "did not support a culture of compliance or fiscal responsibility."