Your Washington State Cougars are just a day away from taking on the Fresno State Bulldogs in the Jimmy Kimmel Los Angeles Bowl.
WSU (7-5, 4-5 in Pac-12) is three weeks removed from its regular season finale loss in the Apple Cup while Fresno State (9-4, 7-1 in Mountain West) defeated the Boise State Broncos to win the Mountain West Championship two weeks ago.
The line has swung in the Bulldogs favor on DraftKings. The Bulldogs are now 3.5 point favorites and -162 on the money line. The total in the game is set at an even 52 points.
A lot has changed on the field and sidelines in the past three weeks for WSU. A flurry of players across the nation as the portal window opened on December 5th. The Cougars saw two starters on each side of the ball jump in the portal after the regular season finale. Wide receivers, Donovan Ollie and De’Zhaun Stribling, and linebackers Travion Brown and Francisco Mauigoa entered the transfer portal and will miss the LA Bowl. The third starting linebacker, senior Daiyan Henley, opted out of the game but will still help coach on the sidelines.
Speaking of coaches, WSU lost both coordinators to other jobs. Offensive Coordinator Eric Morris left to become the head coach of the North Texas Mean Green and Defensive Coordinator Brian Ward took the DC job at Arizona State.
With the transition happening so close to the bowl game, the Cougars have had to quickly make coaching adjustments. Offensively, Clay McGuire said the Cougars will be calling plays by committee with all the offensive coaches having a say in the play calling.
The only notable Bulldogs to jump into the portal is starting CB Cale Sanders Jr. FSU also lost WR Josh Kelly, but the junior had only recorded a catch in four games this season.
With the motivated Bulldogs coming in at nearly full strength, it will be an uphill battle for the undermanned Cougars. The Bulldogs ranked in the top-30 in passing yards per game with 269.8 led by senior Jake Haener. FSU’s rushing attack isn’t as explosive, averaging 3.76 yards per carry. The Cougar defense has been good against the run all year, however, WSU will be without all three starting linebackers and will have to rely on Kyle Thornton and Ben Wilson to fill into some big shoes.
Expect to hear Robert Farrell’s name get called a lot on Saturday. Without Ollie and Stribling, Cam Ward will likely be looking to his fellow Incarnate Word teammate early and often. Fresno State’s secondary allows the 16th most yards per completion at 11.97 and will be without a starting member of the secondary. Up front, the Bulldogs average the 94th most sacks per game with 1.85. If the offensive line can hold up just enough against a weaker pass rush, Ward should be able to expose the Bulldog secondary.
Kickoff is set for 12:30 P.M. on ABC at SoFi Stadium.