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Three things to watch as WSU welcomes Utah State

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 13 AdvoCare Kickoff - Washington State v Houston Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Well, we made it. It’s been a long time since a normal WSU football season started, and here we are. Let me raise a glass to all of you who made it without jumping ship. We’ve endured a lot since we last gathered in Martin Stadium (now we can call it Gesa Field!) and it’s another sign that normalcy is upon us. Let’s go.

Our Washington State Cougars take on the new-look Utah State Aggies in a #Pac12AfterDark matchup and I have to admit, I probably won’t stay up for this one. That’s what happens when you enter your mid-30’s and have other responsibilities, mostly those that happen Sunday morning that require a decent night’s sleep. I know, my 25-year-old self hates me, too.

Anyway, enough with the pre-season projections, the will-coach-be-vaxxed-or-not polemics (warranted or otherwise), the who-will-be-QB1 questions, the should-I-bring-a-mask-to-the-game questions. Let’s all rejoice that a home game in Martin Stadium, on Gesa Field, with fans in the stands with no restrictions (yet) is a welcome sight in the year 2021. Embrace it, friends and foes.

The 2021 version of the Washington State Cougars will hopefully be better than the appetizer we saw in the four games of 2020. Winning one of four in what was basically an exhibition season wasn’t fun, but at least it didn’t really count for much. Just about everybody is back, save for two key wide receivers (one due to injury, the other due to transfer), and the defense can’t be much worse, can it?

My three (give or take) loyal readers may be wondering where my three bold predictions are. I’ve retired those, and I figured I’d go out on top after nailing exactly one bold prediction since I started doing them some time ago. Thank you, Jake Browning, for your interception on UW’s first drive in the 2018 Apple Cup.

Out with the old, in with the new. It’s time to change things up, because who wants to read a stale weekly feature? Not even my mom would. So let’s get serious and look at three things I’m keeping an eye on, and you are free to join me or look elsewhere on the field. Seriously, tell me what you’re keeping an eye on in the comments.

Three Things To Watch

  1. The defensive Line: Really, the interior, as I think the edge rushers are athletic enough (especially the beast that is Brennan Jackson) to do what they need to do, although Jake Dickert apparently toyed with the idea of sending four edge rushers onto the field on once. The defensive line is my biggest worry this season. It didn’t help my anxiety when Dallas Hobbs, our most experienced defensive lineman, wasn’t listed on the two-deeps. Have no fear, says Nick Rolovich, as the team plans to rotate five or six guys throughout the game, which is to be expected. For what it’s worth, Colton Clark of The Spokesman-Review is higher on this unit than I am, which is good to hear. This unit was not good last season, and it’ll need to improve, especially because Utah State has a new coach who likes to speed things up. Speaking of....
  2. Utah State’s new look: Maybe I’m paranoid. Or maybe I’m onto something. Craig’s preview is a must-read, and WSU is heavy favorites over the Aggies. Still, I’m nervous. This ain’t the awful Aggies of 2020, and Blake Anderson is a damn fine coach and an awesome human being. He brought over his quarterback from Arkansas State and a slew of other FBS transfers. I know first-year coaches don’t have an easy haul in year one, but at the same time, it doesn’t make WSU’s film school any easier. Why watch film of Utah State from 2020 when preparing for an entirely new team in 2021? I hope it’s just the paranoia, but I seem to agree with Jesse’s comment here. Clench your butts, fellow fans. It’s what we do.
  3. The WSU quarterback. Duh: The most important position in all of sports is still undecided, at least as far as fans know, the day of the season opener. I’m not naive to think the team hasn’t been told, but whoever WSU trots out there for the first series will be under a microscope. Will it be the veteran and former SEC quarterback in Jarrett Guaranto, or Jayden de Laura, who started all four games in 2020? The starter needs to prove to himself, his teammates, his coaching staff and the fanbase that he is justified as being QB1. WSU has the horses on offense to succeed, but the quarterback needs to manage the game properly. Knowing the competition seemingly went down to the wire puts the starter on a short leash from a fan’s perspective, fair or not.

OK, pace yourselves today, fellow Cougs. It’s a long day before WSU kicks off at 8 p.m. PDT. Go Cougs.

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Links

Countdown to kickoff: Washington State opens against somewhat unpredictable Aggies | The Spokesman-Review
PULLMAN – Nick Rolovich spends his time alone on nights before game days, pondering various scenarios and poring over the play chart in a silent room.

The pick: Why Washington State will beat Utah State | The Spokesman-Review
PULLMAN – It’s only Week 1 and it’s only a nonconference foe, but it feels like a must-win.

Two-minute drill: Keys to victory for Washington State against Utah State | The Spokesman-Review
Don’t take your eyes off ...

Washington State welcoming back electric game weekend atmosphere | The Spokesman-Review
PULLMAN – A genuine college football environment has been missing in Pullman since Nov. 23, 2019.

No. 8 Purdue Takes Down No. 25 Cougs in Three - Washington State University Athletics
Swept.

Sunday Afternoon Soccer on Tap - Washington State University Athletics
The Cougs return home Sunday to take on Hawai'i.

QB questions abound as WSU Cougars host Utah State in 2021 opener
The WSU Cougars open the 2021 season against Utah State, but it's unknown whether Jayden de Laura or Jarrett Guarantano will start at QB.

Three keys to WSU Cougars’ success this season | Sports | wenatcheeworld.com
Nick Rolovich is set to begin his second season at WSU, but in many ways it seems like his first after the Cougars played just four games last season because

College football picks, schedule: Predictions against the spread, odds for top 25 games today in Week 1 - CBSSports.com
A closer look at the top games on the slate as the 2021 college football season kicks off

Washington State vs. Utah State live stream info, TV channel: How to watch NCAA Football on TV, stream online - CBSSports.com
How to watch Washington State vs. Utah State football game