This is the latest in our series of stories previewing the 2019 Washington State Cougars football season. For other installments, click here.
Week one. Where everyone is undefeated and the possibilities are endless. (Unless you’re Arizona or Miami.) The Associated Press writers have said who they think are good, or has the best potential to be good, or might finish with the best records — their guidelines range from nebulous to nonexistent, depending on who you ask; and 65 NCAA head coaches, chosen at random, told one of their quality control people to rank a thing about who they thought was good.
Wazzu landed on both these lists! The Cougs are No. 23 in the AP Poll and were slotted a little higher in the Coaches Poll at No. 21.
No one gets to show how good they are until week one. Or how bad, for that matter. All we really have is a general idea of the direction a program is trending and a keen eye for trap games.
It’s Cougs vs. Everybody in 2019, so let’s walk through the Washington State Cougars season and see what else is on the schedule for these Everybodys they have to face.
WEEK 1: New Mexico State Aggies
Saturday, August 31
Head coach Doug Martin is entering his seventh year with New Mexico State and 2019 will be the school’s second season as an FBS independent. The Fun Belt booted the Aggies after they hit a high-water mark in 2017 by winning six regular season games and beating Utah State in the Arizona Bowl, NMSU’s first bowl game in 57 years.
New Mexico State scheduled … aggressively. As concerned as they may be about their trip north to Pullman, a trip to Tuscaloosa looms ahead the next week. And no one wants to be on the opposite sideline from a Bama team that will probably sleep walk against Duke in a noon game in week one and get yelled at by Nick Saban about effort for five straight days.
WEEK 2: Northern Colorado Bears
Saturday, September 7
The first of the three bear mascot teams WSU will face went 2-9 last year in the Big Sky and got blown out by Eastern 48-13 in November. Head Coach Earnest Collins was fairly candid about their 2019 opener against San Jose State saying, “It’s time to go out and see where we’re at.”
The Bears return a sixth-year starter at quarterback in Jacob Knipp and have a new offensive coordinator from the Colorado School of Mines. Long live the Stitt-sweep.
WEEK 3: Houston Cougars
Friday, September 13
Location: NRG Stadium (“neutral field”) in Houston, Texas
Washington State went 13-1 in the 1907 football season and their basketball team went 12-3. Both of these teams were coached by the same man, John Reinhold “Chief” Bender. After his time at Wazzu and a couple other stops in the college ranks, he became a physical education instructor at the University of Houston in the 1920’s and is credited as their first head football coach.
This is only notable because he named that volunteer squad of students the Cougars, after Washington State. In 1928 the student newspaper debuted and took the same name The Cougar.
The Coogs — that’s how they spell it — fired head coach Major Applewhite after he won the division and got blasted by Army 70-14 in the Armed Forces bowl. Usually a short-sighted move but then again, the UH President did say they’d fire coaches for going 8-4. Surprisingly, they convinced Dana Holgorsen to leave a Power Five conference job with just a bit of a hot seat and come home to Texas pretty soon after, so maybe it was shrewd to send Applewhite on his way.
The offense has potential to be amazing and so does the defense, for opposite reasons. They’re projected 11th on offense and 118th on defense by Bill Connelly’s (soon-to-be-renamed) S&P+. Houston opens the season at Oklahoma this weekend and gets Prairie View A&M the week before Wazzu comes to town.
WEEK 4: UCLA Bruins
Saturday, September 21
UCLA returns Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback for year two under Chip Kelly. Kelly hasn’t coached a winning season of football since 2014 and is coming off a mostly bad 3-9 season that started out with five straight losses.
This year’s schedule is just as brutal. They opened at Cincinnati last night — who is picked by many to win the American — and promptly lost, and now they host an always frisky San Diego State team and No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners before heading up to Pullman. We should have a good idea whether UCLA is still only good in spurts or has actually stepped up to being a tough out by the time they come to Martin.
WEEK 5: Utah Utes
Saturday, September 28th
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
The No. 14 Utah Utes are a media darling, not only picked to win the Pac-12 but many national pundits have them as a dark horse playoff contender. The Utes brand is defense and the brand is strong. Utah likely has the best group of defensive lineman in the conference.
The Utes opened the season last night with The Holy War at Brigham Young in Provo, which was a bit of a struggle early, but they pulled away late. Then they play host to Northern Illinois and Idaho State before a game that could likely decide the south division, a trip to the Coliseum for a date with the Trojans on September 20. Depending on how that goes, the Cougs could either be facing a juiced up Utah team believing its press clippings or a somewhat demoralized squad that is facing the reality of preseason goals slipping away.
WEEK 6: BYE
Saturday, October 5
Excellent spot for a bye.
WEEK 7: Arizona State Sun Devils
Saturday, October 12
Location: Tempe, Arizona
Herm Edwards was a suspect hire … until he wasn’t. Edwards and his Sun Devils surprised just about everyone by winning seven games last year. But gone are Manny Wilkins and N’Keal Harry. Edwards named true freshman Jayden Daniels the starter over junior Dillon Sterling-Cole this week ahead of their opening game against Kent State, which the won handily.
ASU also goes to East Lancing to face No. 18 Michigan State before conference play kicks off with games against Colorado and at Cal. Wazzu gets them off a bye but the Sun Devils also get a bye before their game against the Cougs. ASU gets to look ahead to road trips at Utah and UCLA before another bye in the weeks after.
WEEK 8: Colorado Buffaloes
Saturday, October 19th
Colorado enters year zero for Head Coach Mel Tucker, who was previously Georgia’s defensive coordinator under Kirby Smart. They are most likely in rebuild mode, but they do have Steven Montez returning at quarterback and perhaps the best player in the conference, wide receiver Laviska Shenault, Jr.
The Buffs host old rival No. 24 (!) Nebraska in week two and open conference play with the Arizona schools. They go to Autzen for a Friday night with the Ducks the week before coming to Pullman and host USC for another Friday nighter the week after. That’s a bad sandwich for CU … who finishes the season hosting No. 25 Stanford, bye, No. 13 Washington, and going to No. 14 Utah.
WEEK 9: Oregon Ducks
Saturday, October 26
Location: Eugene, Oregon
The hype machine is rolling again for No. 11 Oregon. And for good reason. The Ducks have one of the best offensive lines in college football and a potential Heisman candidate at quarterback. All eyes will be on the Ducks this Saturday when they open the season against No. 16 Auburn in JerryWorld. No doubt this game isn’t only important for Oregon, but the national perception of the entire Pac-12 rides on how good they look against an SEC team that finished 3-5 in conference last year and is starting a freshman quarterback.
Oregon opens conference play on the road against Stanford before hosting Cal and Colorado. They play at Montlake the week before WSU and go to USC the week after. Classic let-down-look-ahead sandwich positioning for the Cougs with this one.
WEEK 10: BYE
Saturday, November 2
Another well scheduled bye week to break up road trips.
WEEK 11: California Golden Bears
Saturday, November 9
Location: Berkeley, California
Cal has a great defense, potentially a top 10 in college football level great. Their secondary is touted as the best in the conference. They are fantastic, defensively. They are the opposite, offensively. Cal was bad on offense last year (118th in S&P+) and might’ve succeeded at getting worse, losing their leading rusher Patrick Laird and top four receiving targets. Quarterback Chase Garbers is back, so there’s that.
They are inverse Houston.
The Bears have a tune up against UC Davis in week one before jumping right into the deep end of the pool with a road trip to Seattle to face No. 13 Washington in week two. They finish up the non-conference with a game against North Texas — and Seth Littrell has perhaps the best offense in C-USA — and a trip to The Grove to play Ole Miss (hilarious culture clash) who recently staffed Mike McIntyre and Rich Rodriguez as their Defensive and Offensive Coordinators, respectively.
Cal is on bye the week before WSU, coming off a trip to Salt Lake City. After Wazzu, they host USC, go to No. 25 Stanford for The Big Game, and finish the season at UCLA.
There’s a few WSU-USC back-to-backs coming up in the schedule ... with Graham Harrell taking over as OC for the Trojans, it’s worth noting Cal and Oregon are getting an uncut dose of Air Raid from Wazzu the week before he plays them. It’s basically two weeks of prep. Just something to think about.
WEEK 12: Stanford Cardinal
Saturday, November 16
Stanford opens the season at home with a shot at redemption for the 2014 “body clock” game against 2018 Big Ten West Champions Northwestern. Then they play at USC. Then for some terrible reason they thought it would be a good idea to play at UCF in Orlando. Then they host No. 11 Oregon. A breather against Oregon State in Corvallis provides short relief, then they host No. 13 Washington the week after that. Even if the Ducks and Huskies are at home, that’s rough.
It is not unrealistic that Stanford starts the season 1-5. They could also have five or six wins with three over AP Top 25 schools by the first week of October. Who knows? Some think KJ Costello is a really good quarterback and can carry a Stanford team that quit doing Stanford things last year, others point out that he won’t have JJ Arcega-Whiteside to throw jump balls to.
The Cardinal go to Colorado the week before coming to Pullman and finish the season hosting Cal and No. 9 Notre Dame.
WEEK 13: Oregon State Beavers
Saturday, November 23
Perfectly timed bye week, again.
Don’t be one of their three wins because of a trap game.
WEEK 14: Washington Huskies
Saturday, November 29
No. 13 Washington plays host to Eastern to open the season before starting quarterback Jacob Eason gets tested by Cal in week two. The Huskies get all but one of their big games at home. They go to No. 25 Stanford in week six, but host USC in week 5, No. 11 Oregon in week eight and No. 14 Utah in week 10. The Huskies have two road trips broke up with a bye at Oregon State and at Colorado before hosting the Cougs for the Apple Cup.