Good morning. Back in May, the Spokesman Review ranked the teams on WSU’s schedule from worst to first, doing so by what Theo Lawson termed “degree of difficulty” (I take this to mean which team WSU will have the easiest time with, then progress to the Apple Cup). Seems like an interesting topic, though the grades seem to diverge from the stated “degree of difficulty” metric. This week, Athlon Sports did the same, but took an opponent-centric approach.
I prefer Lawson’s method (minus the letter grades), but have some disagreements, especially near the top. So today, let’s try and meld the two as we slog our way through the bargain bin of content. As with the others, we will start at the bottom and work toward the toughest team.
12. San Jose State - It says a lot about the state of SJSU’s program that we all agree they are the easiest mark on the wall for this year’s WSU team.
Percentage chance of a WSU win: 99
11. Eastern Washington - Mike Leach’s Cougars haven’t exactly played up to par against decent-to-good FCS teams. While EWU should be good, they aren’t nearly the team they were in 2016, and thank God for that.
Percentage chance of a WSU win: 85
10. Oregon State - Lawson actually pegs OSU as an easier opponent than EWU. I guess? The difference here is that WSU has to go to Corvallis, and while Leach and the Cougs have won two straight there, neither was easy, and the 2016 game required a near-miraculous rally despite the fact that OSU stunk.
Percentage chance of a WSU win: 69
9. Colorado - 2016 seems like a decade ago when compared to Colorado’s 2018 prospects. The Buffs lost their two best skill players, and their best defender. While they return QB Steven Montez, the jury is out as to whether that’s a good or bad thing.
Percentage chance of a WSU win: 58
8. Cal - While Justin Wilcox and the Golden Bears took a lot of people by surprise last season, they still only managed a 5-7 record. They should be decent again this season, but how good can they really be with Ross Bowers at quarterback?
Percentage chance of a WSU win: 53
7. Wyoming - Took a while to get to the final non-conference opponent. This ranking isn’t a reflection of Wyoming’s quality as much as it has to do with the game’s location and place in the schedule. Wyoming is supposed to be pretty good, and will have a game under its belt already. While the value of that is debatable, this will be a tough game for WSU.
Percentage chance of a WSU win: 50
6. Utah - The Utes and perennially overrated coach Kyle Whittingham will be WSU’s first home conference opponent in 2018. They return both Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss. The Utes always seem to be solid along the lines, and played a ton of young players in 2017. Maybe this is the year Whittingham breaks through and gets his team to something better than the Vegas Bowl.
Percentage chance of a WSU win: 45
5. Arizona - It’s no secret that Arizona’s fortunes, like most teams I guess, will revolve around quarterback play. However, when your QB is Khalil Tate, that is magnified even more. How Kevin Sumlin employs Tate remains to be seen, and you can almost always count on a leaky Wildcat defense.
Percentage chance of a WSU win: 38
4. USC - Yeah, USC has always had and always will have a decided talent advantage. And yeah, the Cougs are going on the road on a short week. HOWEVAH, Mike Leach is unbeaten in LA as WSU’s head coach. That’s...something?
Percentage chance of a WSU win: 26
3. Stanford - Relying a bit on WSU’s recent history in this series, which is essentially meaningless in a week-to-week sport, Apple Cup notwithstanding. Many pundits seem to be higher on the Cardinal than I am, especially with the return of Bryce Love. But they still have a questionable quarterback situation, and the defense hasn’t exactly been fearsome of late.
Percentage chance of a WSU win: 25
2. Oregon - Lawson’s outlier was Arizona, which he had up at number two. The Ducks are possibly mine, though Wyoming may also qualify. I think Oregon is poised for a breakout season, mostly because they have the best QB in the division. It also doesn’t hurt that Jim Leavitt is running the defense. Aside - Hey Kansas State, I really hope you have Leavitt on the hook to replace Bill Snyder. I want him away from the Pac-12.
Percentage chance of a WSU win: 22
1. Washington - BOHICA
Percentage chance of a WSU win:
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