The Washington State Cougars open their 2014 season in Seattle's CenturyLink Field on Thursday when they face the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The Cougs are favored to win the quasi-home game, which could be the last the school ever hosts in "The Clink". Kyle Sherwood won't be shedding many tears about that.
How might WSU cover the 8-point spread, on which PJ Kendall feels comfortable enough to bet $20 imaginary dollars? WSU's Air Raid offense, led by senior quarterback Connor Halliday and a stable of talented targets, against Rutgers' inexperienced secondary seems to be the Cougs' biggest advantage. Brian Anderson has the skinny on the Scarlet Knights' lack of depth in the defensive backfield:
Depth in the secondary is a real necessity when you're forced to play five every snap, and depth in the secondary is something Rutgers doesn't really have at the start of the season. Wazzu will fire eight receivers at you in two platoons. Every time they run they'll be fresh and you could be asked to defend a 30 yard vertical multiple plays in a row.
But why might WSU backers be worried? The Cougars have secondary problems of their own, and Anderson says there is at least one Rutgers receiver that can exploit that weakness:
WSU will have a young secondary that needs to keep an eye on Leonte Carroo at all times; if they don't, one of those big plays that Rutgers uses as lifeblood could jump up on them.
With sub-par secondaries on both sides, it's important to look at the quarterbacks to see how they stack up. Luckily Mark Sandritter and Jeff Collier stepped in to do just that, and it's Halliday that comes out on top over Gary Nova in nearly every important category.
Game Time: 7 p.m. PST
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1 (which Dish viewers will see)
Spread: WSU favored by 8