This is the year.
College football fans across the country use that as an August rallying cry. It doesn't matter what happened last season or the last five seasons; this is the year. For some teams, it might be the year they win a national championship or make the college football playoffs. For others, it might be the year they make a bowl game or finish in the upper half of their conference.
Expectations and optimism are never higher among college football fanbases than they are in August. It's a beautiful month of clean slates, positive stories and outpouring of enthusiasm. Blind optimism is a hell of a drug and the college football world rides that high until the whistles blow on Week 1.
For WSU, this is the year things finally turn around.
It's been 11 seasons since the Cougars posted a winning season. What started as simply one down season following three 10-win campaigns turned into two, then three and only spiraled from there. The depths came and boy were they low. The darkest of times have come and gone, but the process to build a consistent winning program remains a work in progress.
Things can only change with opportunity, however, and WSU too will have a clean slate and another chance to make this the year. There are a few new faces in Year 4 of the Mike Leach era, but a lot remains the same. That includes a fanbase starving for a winning season and to finally turn the corner on the past decade.
This is the year.
-- Mark Sandritter
By The Numbers
The number of passing yards WSU's offense averaged per game last season, No. 1 in the country. It is also the number the Cougars will be challenged to equal or better this season. Connor Halliday threw for the vast majority of those yards and it will be a difficult task to equal his success.
The number of passing yards WSU's defense allowed per game las season, No. 127 in the country. That number played a big role in Mike Breske being fired and Alex Grinch being hired as the new defensive coordinator. Grinch's expertise is in the secondary and he has his work cut out to fix WSU's.
The Cougars' turnover margin last season, thanks to a paltry eight forced turnovers. WSU's 25 turnovers wasn't a terrible number considering how many offensive plays it runs, but the Cougars simply have to force more turnovers. In 37 games under Leach, the Cougars are 3-0 when winning the turnover battle, 4-10 when breaking even and 5-15 when losing it. Win the turnover battle, win games. It's that simple.
The number of WSU players who have topped 100 receptions in a season. Vince Mayle set the single-season record last year with 106 catches. If he stays healthy, River Cracraft will join Mayle in the three-digit club. He's WSU's best and most reliable receiver and primed for a monster season. After a slow start to his freshman season, Cracraft has been consistently productive, he just needs to remain truly "happy and healthy."
The number of kickoffs WSU has fielded since Sammy Moore raced 97 yards against Colorado in 2003, the last time the Cougars returned a kickoff for a touchdown. WSU doesn't have to throw for 500 yards a game to have a chance to win. They proved that wasn't enough last season. The Cougars need to get better on defense, need to create more turnovers and they need to start making explosive plays on special teams, starting with the return game.
-- Mark Sandritter
The Gravitron Diaries
Sometime over the summer while the authors and I frequented various speakeasies and mobile taquerias, someone came across a leviathan known as ‘Totchos.' Totchos, as you would expect, are Tater Tots drenched in nacho ingredients. It's legitimately the greatest idea of a creation bestowed upon the world, right ahead of Uber and Free Slurpee Day. At the same time, a man of my age who even thinks about a plate of totchos will start to feel his left arm tingle. And there's legitimately no way taking down that plate will ever live up to the hype or fill the emptiness in your heart.
I spent all summer thinking about them. I wrote about them so much that my phone autocorrects "totchos" to "TOTCHOS." And when I found a plate, watching the server bring them to me was the single greatest three minutes of my year. Then after a few bites, I realize I'm just eating mushed up potatoes drenched in a cheese solution and olive slices. Regret kicks in. And I realize there is still 70 percent of the plate left to eat. And I might die if I keep going.
So pretty much Cougar Football.
(Mark bet me I couldn't work in Totchos to the season preview and I spent two paragraphs on it. Go Cougs.)
There is literally no number of wins this season where I would tell you you're wrong. This team is that mysterious.
So this is the space where I tell you what to expect this season and I think as the conductor of this Gravitron, I'm expected to be negative. My idea every year is "This is a 4-8 team. Prove me wrong." And I've never felt more positive of that feeling than this year. And at the same time I wouldn't be shocked in the slightest if they rattled off a 9-4 year and we all have new Holiday Bowl shirts to replace the ones from twelve years ago that don't fit over our bellies after all those plates of TOTCHOS (just me?). There is literally no number of wins this season where I would tell you you're wrong. This team is that mysterious.
So seriously, go nuts. You want a 2-10 team that loses by 30 to Wyoming? That might happen! You want Bama?You might get Bama! You looking forward to seeing the first WSU quarterback in 10 years not have to get his spine fused to his kneecaps in the offseason? Luke Falk is! Who here thinks Mike Leach ends up on the hot seat and then files a lawsuit against the school resulting in him becoming Governor? Not entirely implausible!
This season could be what finally gets people to start caring about Cougar football again and it might also be yet another fall where we wonder why we even bother and go check the ‘yes' box on that wedding invitation on your shelf scheduled for Apple Cup Saturday.
I am loving this August. I hope to feel half this great in October. Those TOTCHOS should be out of my system by then.
-- Kyle Sherwood
The Rebuild Continues: Year 4
As Mike Leach prepares to lead the Cougars into his fourth season as coach, it's fascinating to remember that this was the point his predecessor was embarking on the campaign that eventually culminated with his firing. There's not even a hint of a thought that Leach could suffer the same fate as Paul Wulff when 2015 concludes.
Their paths to Year 4 have been divergent, of course, as Wulff plumbed depths unfamiliar to even our tortured fan base. In 2008 and 2009, his teams were outscored by a combined 723 points. They lost by four or more touchdowns 14 times in 24 games, and there was a four-game stretch in his first season that included three shutouts and 224 points allowed. His third season was better, but only by comparison: The Cougs still were outscored by nearly 200 points and only a weird road win over Oregon State prevented WSU's second consecutive one-win season.
And, as everyone who was there knows, that brief description doesn't really even come close to doing justice to the terribleness.
The first three years of Leach's tenure certainly haven't been that kind of unmitigated disaster. But in terms of meeting expectations? Even Leach's most ardent supporters would have to admit his tenure has yet to live up to the hype. WSU has never thrown an eight-figure contract at an established coach, and for that kind of investment, virtually everyone expected more than 12 wins in three seasons - even if half those wins produced WSU's first bowl appearance in a decade.
We can debate whether initial expectations were reasonable, given the program Leach inherited, but three losing seasons from a coach who had never had one in 10 years at Texas Tech isn't what anyone had in mind.
And yet, there isn't really a hint of a warm seat under Leach. Don't believe the outsiders who want to try and put that label on him. They don't know what they're talking about.
Most of that has to do with athletics director Bill Moos, a former WSU offensive lineman who has thrown his considerable weight behind Leach. Moos is all-in on his highest profile hire, both politically and pragmatically. He'll tell anyone who will listen that Leach has this ship heading in the right direction, but he also has given Leach a roll-over contract that makes it nearly impossible for WSU to let him go. Barring some sort of bizarre off-the-field incident that forces Moos to fire him with cause, Leach is not going anywhere. While the Pac-12's television riches allowed the Cougs to hire him and pour unprecedented dollars into facilities upgrades, they did not provide enough wiggle room to make a high-profile mistake. WSU and Leach are hitched for better or for worse.
But it's not as if Moos' confidence is unfounded. It's tempting to discount the New Mexico Bowl appearance, both for the three-win turd sandwiches that surrounded it and for the way that turd of a game ended, which was such a downer considering the improbable run it took to get there. However, it did happen, and while one of my co-authors loves to say that Wulff shouldn't be the baseline for evaluation, the fact Leach accomplished something in two years that his predecessor couldn't even sniff in four is worth something.
Additionally, Leach has consistently brought in higher caliber recruits than Wulff, and he's kept and developed higher caliber recruits than Bill Doba. Leach's last class flirted with a top 25 ranking, and even after a number of defections leading up to signing day, the program's final ranking of 41 was its highest since 2006. And really, you don't even need recruiting services to tell you this. You can see it with your own eyes.
It's time for all that to start paying obvious dividends in 2015. While Leach is at no risk of losing his job at the end of this year, the risk for continued collateral damage in the form of decreased donations and ticket sales is very real if the Cougars don't do better than the tepid improvement of Wulff's fourth team, which could only win two of its final 10 games after blowing out a pair of cupcakes to open the season.
The goal for Leach's fourth season should be something Wulff never could accomplish: Unbridled optimism for what's to come.
-- Jeff Nusser
The Alex Grinch Era
For a coach taking his first coordinator position, Alex Grinch didn't find himself a very soft landing. Sure, there is more pressure and scrutiny at other schools, but the task of rebuilding WSU's defense is a significant one. We all know the ugly numbers from last season. WSU couldn't force turnovers and allowed too many big plays. The result was opponents averaging a robust 6.2 yards per play on the Cougars.
Now, the task is fixing the problem and Grinch was appointed as the man to do it. Had he come in with the original staff, Grinch would have benefited from a bit of a cushion. There are expected to be some growing pains early on. Taking over the defensive reigns following 12 wins in three seasons means substantially less margin of error. The fans want to win games now and the defensive issues are well known. Grinch and the defense have a big red X on their back heading into Week 1.
This isn't a case where Grinch can buy a house, do a little landscaping, slap on a paint job and sell it for a tidy profit. He's essentially buying a house where the builder took three years to put in the foundation and now Grinch needs to get walls up and a roof on fast before the winter hits and everything is screwed. He needs a quick fix for a convoluted problem that will take years of recruiting to remedy. It's quite the task.
It appears Grinch's plan of attack is two-fold: simplicity and speed. He didn't come in and make wholesale changes. And he isn't going to try and develop complex scheme to outwit an opponent. Instead, Grinch is making an effort to put the fastest 11 defenders he can on the field and allow them to play fast thanks to simple ideals. Instead of trying to bulk up the defense and transform players into the Hulk, the focus in training has shifted to lean and fast.
In a lot of ways, the 2015 Cougar defense will look a lot like the 2014 Cougar defense. Many of the same players return and WSU will remain in a hybrid 3-4 scheme. The Cougars still plan to use three down linemen and a stand-up pass rusher off the edge. What used to be called the "Buck" is now called the "Rush" but the general responsibilities of the position remain the same. The big scheme change under Grinch is the move to nickel as a base defense.
He needs a quick fix for a convoluted problem that will take years of recruiting to remedy. It's quite the task.
It takes years of recruiting classes to significantly add speed to a defense. Grinch doesn't have years to wait, so instead, he's trying to make an immediate impact by putting an extra speed player on the field. WSU is going to operate out of a nickel package, using a hybrid safety/linebacker in place of what used to be the SAM linebacker. A number of teams use a similar concept and for WSU, it should give the Cougars another player on the field capable in coverage, but also able to help in run support.
It's all about matchups. Having a talent deficiency is one thing, but having talent issues while also getting exploited by mismatches is the recipe for one of the worst defenses in the country. The coaching staff is working to remedy the former by recruiting, and the scheme change will hopefully help mitigate the latter.
There is no magic band-aid to cure all that ails the Cougar defense. No coach was going to come in and turn WSU into a top 10 defense next season. Not Grinch. Not anyone. But, the good news is, that's not what the Cougars need to find success. The Cougars don't need to pitch shutouts in order to win 7-0 games. WSU's offense paired with even an average defense is likely a recipe for success. Take a step from atrocious to even slightly below average next season and Grinch will have WSU on the right path.
Consider this; WSU is 10-6 when it wins the yards per play battle under Mike Leach and 2-19 when it doesn't. The Cougar offense has improved per play considerably each season, going from 4.92 to 5.48 to 6.12. There is a pretty good chance, the offense will produce somewhere between 6.0 and 6.5 yards per play this season. That means if the WSU defense could even limit opponents to 5.75 YPP (in the No. 80 range in the country) the Cougars could really be in business.
WSU was in that range, or even better, in 2012 and 2013. Things regressed last season in a big way. Fixing that is the No. 1 priority and the fate of the season rests largely in Grinch's hands. No pressure, coach.
-- Mark Sandritter
Week 1: Saturday, Sept. 5
Venue: Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash.
Opponent: Portland State Vikings
Last year the Cougs opened up Martin with a 59-21 win over the Vikings. Notable things that happened; WSU racked up 706 yards of offense, Connor Halliday threw for six touchdowns, no one got injured, and the defense reached one third of its season total when one pass was intercepted.
Portland State is 0-0 when facing ranked opponents, and won't get a chance to improve on that when they come to the Palouse to open the season. First-year head coach Bruce Barnum has stressed a return to "tough, blue-collar, fundamental football" at PSU as it looks for the first winning season since 2011. The Vikings are picked by the media to finish 12th out of the 13 Big Sky teams.
Week 2: Saturday, Sept. 12
Venue: High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway Township, N.J.
Opponent: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Rutgers opens the season with a game against Norfolk State, televised for the masses on ESPNEWS, before welcoming in the Cougs for the second leg of a home(?)-and-home series. The Scarlet Knights get to look forward to a trip to Happy Valley the next week. After escaping Seattle last year, the Scarlet Knights went 3-5 in the Big Ten and finished out the season whipping North Carolina in a bowl game to get to a very respectable 8-5.
Rutgers returns just about all of its skill guys, but is looking to replace some key pieces on offense. Stepping in for quarterback Gary Nova will be either last year's back-up Chris Laviano or LSU transfer Hayden Rettig. The Scarlet Knights also need to fill three offensive line spots that accounted for 112 starts. Ralph Friedgen, who did wonders improving Rutgers' efficiency last season, decided to retire from his offensive coordinator post and remains on staff in a consultant role. Josh McDaniels' brother, Ben, was promoted from receivers coach to fill the spot.
Week 3: Saturday, Sept. 19
Venue: Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash.
Opponent: Wyoming Cowboys
Wyoming went 4-8 during Craig Bohl's first year as head coach last season -- a year where it took on both Michigan State and Oregon in the non-conference slate. Scheduling Eastern Michigan and Washington State in 2015 is slightly less ambitious.
Bohl should be a familiar name, he's the reason you know North Dakota State has a football program, but the Cowboys are expected to still be in the early stages of program building next season and are really shaky on defense. Wyoming gets to look forward to hosting New Mexico the week after WSU, which is possibly the Cowboys' most important conference game of the season. With a bye the next week, the Cowboys should have Wazzu's full attention.
Important note: they have an awesome logo.
Week 4: Saturday, Sept. 26
The one and only bye of the season comes just after the non-conference games. All conference games in a row to finish a season is so tough the SEC doesn't even do it.
Week 5: Saturday, Oct. 3
Venue: California Memorial Coliseum, Berkeley, Calif.
Opponent: California Golden Bears
Cal invites the Cougs to Strawberry Canyon after road contests at Texas and Montlake, one day before the anniversary of the largest gut punch of last season. Cal has big aspirations next year, and sits in a similar boat as WSU, both hoping the defense can improve just enough. With trips to Utah and UCLA on the horizon, followed by USC at home and the Ducks in Autzen, beating Wazzu at home is vital to the Bears bowl efforts. Oregon State is the only remaining game where they have a good chance at being favored.
Week 6: Saturday, Oct. 10
Venue: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.
Opponent: Oregon Ducks
After tripping to East Lancing to face the Spartans, the Ducks get Georgia State and Utah at home. Oregon has a date with Colorado in Folsom Field Week 5, making Wazzu the second pass-heavy team it faces in a row. The Ducks have their only back-to-back road tests all season following WSU, at Washington and at Arizona State.
Oregon will still be good after sending Marcus Mariota to the NFL, but may not be the world-beaters it was when he was there. The Cougs have played Oregon tough recently, and if they manage to navigate a flawless non-conference and come away on the right side of the scoreboard against Cal, the Ducks could be seeing a really confident Coug squad.
Week 6: Saturday, Oct. 17
Venue: Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash.
Opponent: Oregon State Beavers
Wazzu gets the Beavers and their awful uniforms as a homecoming date. OSU fell directly into a 'best-case scenario' when they coerced Gary Andersen out of Wisconsin after Mike Riley left for Nebraska. Andersen will have that program in good shape, but probably not by next season.
Oregon State opens conference play at home against Stanford, then trips to Arizona after a bye week before heading up to Pullman. That's three of the most contrasting offensive styles in the conference in a row. The bye should help recovering from Stanford's physicality, but that's rough sledding for a coach new to the conference. The Beavers get a home game against Colorado the week after.
Week 6: Saturday, Oct. 24
Venue: Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz.
Opponent: Arizona Wildcats
Wazzu visits the desert in the middle of the winnable portion of Arizona's season, which must be one of the most favorable months ever scheduled. After opening conference play against UCLA and visiting Stanford, Arizona fills out the rest of October with the weaker teams in the PAC-12 (OSU, at CU, WSU, at UW) before tripping to the Coliseum and battling the men of Troy. On the flip side, WSU is beginning its toughest stretch of the year.
Anu Solomon surprised just about everybody last season and Arizona returns what is widely regarded as the best receiving corps in the conference. The Wildcats will be good. WSU doesn't necessarily need Zona to sleep on them like they did two years ago ... but it really wouldn't hurt to be the slip-up during a month on cruise control.
Week 7: Saturday, Oct. 31
Venue: Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash.
Opponent: Stanford Cardinal
Halloween! Stanford figures to be pretty decent again, kinda like it has been. The Cardinal's MO is well-established at this point; power run game and questionable red zone playcalling. Wazzu gets Stanford in between a home game against UW and a trip to Colorado, which seems to be a theme among WSU opponents this season.
Last year, the Cardinal controlled the game with pressure up front, sacking Halliday four times. With a stronger offensive line performance, a little grit on defense, and some All Hallow's Eve shenanigans? Who knows. Slot it at 7 p.m. and let's get weird.
Week 8: Saturday, Nov. 7
Venue: Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash.
Opponent: Arizona State Sun Devils
Arizona State visits Pullman the week after a Thursday night meeting with Oregon. With UW at home the following week and the Territorial Cup the week after, the Cougs might be situated in prime "let down game" real estate. The Cougs got ASU in cold weather a couple years ago and it didn't matter one single bit, but that's always something that sits in the back of your mind when you see a warm-weather team late in the season.
Those are three insanely tough games to hit in a row, at least two of them are at home. What? It doesn't get easier?
Week 9: Saturday, Nov. 14
Venue: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
Opponent: UCLA Bruins
The Bruins cap off a brutal stretch of games. Everyone likes UCLA, no one has seen Josh Rosen play college football. Rosen is a highly touted, All-Everything true freshman that by all accounts looks very capable, if not a phenom. True freshman have rarely started for top-caliber teams -- and an even more rarely -- since 2008, only six have had an above average passer rating by the end of the season. Those are very long odds for a pro style quarterback like Rosen.
UCLA plays host to WSU in their final home game of the season. They had the Beavers in town the week before and trip to Utah and USC to close out conference play. Trap? Rice-Eccles is a tough trip to take and USC will likely have a real low number to the left of their name on the score graphic. The Bruins had all sorts of problems with pass-heavy teams last year, barely squeeking by Colorado and Cal by a combined five points in consecutive shootouts.
WSU will be beyond battle tested at this point, and well-accustomed to playing high-quality teams.
Week 10: Saturday, Nov. 21
Venue: Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash.
Opponent: Colorado Buffalos
A breather! Oh, WSU is their breather too. The Buffs visit the Palouse after going to UCLA, and hosting Stanford then USC on a short week. I wouldn't wish Stanford-USC back-to-back on anybody, but I'll happily take facing them after that badness happens. Colorado still has its problems, but has been steadily improving under Mike McIntyre. They have a highly capable receiving corps and quarterback Sefo Liufau is looking to build on an outstanding sophomore effort.
Week 13: Friday, Nov. 27
Venue: Husky Stadium, Seattle, Wash.
Opponent: Washington Huskies
The Huskies are in for a little bit of rocky ride next year, but don't rejoice too hard, their view's pretty bright after the dark 2015 season. Washington heads into the Apple Cup after consecutive road tests at Arizona State and Oregon State. The possible conference wins are back-loaded for them. If a bowl game is achievable, it will most likely require a win over WSU. I'm thinking five wins is their ceiling, but I'm not that willing to rule out Chris Petersen over-achieving in the year after a season where he lost six games with three All-Americans on defense ... of course, some would say five wins would be over-achieving.
-- Brian Anderson
Best And Worst Case Scenarios
A college football season ultimately boils down to wins and losses, but there is a very fine line in getting there. A few breaks can be the difference between 4-8 and 6-6 or better. Last season, things went about as poorly as they could for WSU. Even when the Cougars played well enough to win, something broke wrong that led to a loss. A few plays go a different way and maybe WSU wins five or six games instead of three. But those are the breaks.
Realistically, even if everything breaks right, WSU isn't going to go 15-0 and win a National Championship. WSU's best case scenario is likely shy of that. At the same time, 2015 could be a redux of 2014 if the worst case scenario hits, maybe even worse.
If everything breaks right
The Cougs blast Portland State, hang a double-digit win on Rutgers, and destroy Wyoming in route to the bye week. Everyone is healthy, multiple receivers are in the top 10 in statistics, Luke Falk hasn't thrown a pick and leads the nation in touchdown passes.
Pac-12 play begins and last year's blunder is avenged in Berkeley. The Cougs travel to Oregon 4-0 and maybe even receive a vote or two in the polls. They play the Ducks tough and drop a close one, but come back strong in a decisive victory over Oregon State to get to 5-1.
WSU has a brutal stretch of games late in the season and that doesn't change, but the Cougars pick up at least a win in that stretch -- let's say against UCLA -- and win a barn-burner against Colorado the week after.
Wazzu heads into Seattle with seven wins and a winning season in hand for the first time in forever. The Cougars come out strong against Washington and put the game away by halftime. An 8-4 regular season is good enough for a bid in the Las Vegas bowl.
The bowl game is an exclamation point on a terrific season. Falk crosses the 5,000-yard passing mark in the game and finishes the season with more than 40 touchdown passes. The receivers and running backs put up absurd, efficient numbers. The defense takes a significant step forward in Alex Grinch's first season and the young group shows a ton of progress.
WSU finishes the year 9-4, ranked in the top 25 and as the team on the rise in the Pac-12. It parlays the on-field success on the recruiting trail and signs a top 25 class. The 2014 season is a distant afterthought and there is actual and legitimate talk of contending in the Pac-12 in 2016.
If everything breaks wrong
Wazzu beats Portland State but Falk doesn't look all that good and the defense gets torched a few more times than is comfortable. Of course they lose big to Rutgers, they had to travel to the East Coast. They beat Wyoming, like they should've beat Nevada last year and are a respectable, but not ideal, 2-1 in non-conference.
The secondary looks awful against Cal's offense and the Cougars lose a shootout. The feelings of "oh no, here we go again" start to sink in. Unlike last year, the Cougs can't hang with Oregon and get thrashed instead to fall to 2-3. WSU manages to beat OSU, but then things really get ugly.
The brutal four game stretch isn't worth the DVR space. Blowout loss after blowout loss as the Cougars fall to 3-7 and any dreams of a bowl game are dashed. Fans and media start to question whether Mike Leach has lost the team and that hot seat talk ramps up, even if Bill Moos doesn't buy it.
Sefo Liufau lights them up as the defense continues to be an unmitigated disaster. It's not quite the "Crapple Cup" of 2008, but the Apple Cup is meaningless and determines the North doormat. The Cougars lose, their third straight loss to Washington.
WSU's defense makes no gains under Grinch. Even worse, the Cougars cycle quarterbacks with no positive results. Falk fails establish himself and struggles in an out of action. Peyton Bender gets a few opportunities, but doesn't fare any better. WSU burns Tyler Hilinski's redshirt due to injuries and the freshman is overwhelmed by the Pac-12.
For the second straight season, WSU finishes an embarrassing 3-9. Except this year, there are no defensive coaches to fire. Despite his contract, Leach's job security is constantly called into question. It's not just Leach, Moos' status also begins to be called into question. After all, the football program is just 21-52 during his tenure. The recruiting class is ranked in the 70s.
The Cougars head into 2016 with no clear starting quarterback, major issues on defense and with legitimate questions about the future of the program and athletic department.
-- Brian Anderson & Mark Sandritter
Despite the fact WSU is coming off a 3-9 season, the CougCenter staff as a whole is expecting a much better 2015. More than half of the staff predicted a bowl game and eight and even nine wins were somehow predicted. The 17 of us are convinced WSU will win at least two non-conference games as both PSU and Wyoming were unanimous victories. There is even some hope for every game the rest of the season, except against Arizona. Not one soul picked the Cougars to beat the Wildcats.
Here is a look at how we see the 2015 season unfolding:
Mark: "Well, that escalated quickly. I did not expect to predict 8-5."
Nusser: "Win the Apple Cup on the road to get to a bowl. I dig it."
Anderson: "If realistic things go unrealistically favorable, I think this is a solid 'best case scenario' outlook."
Sherwood: "This team isn't comically bad anymore, but will always be 4-8 until proven otherwise."
Michael: "More talent in the back but they're still primed to get torched."
Floyd: "Gotta start strong, but there are (at least) 6 wins here ... plus a bunch of NOPE NO WAYS."
Craig: "We have the standard laid egg against the Beavers at home, leaving slim bowl hopes before closing strong."
Eric: "An up-and-down season seen as a step forward in it's entirety."
Collier: "I'm a (mostly wrong) optimist, and think WSU will upset someone. My money's on Stanford."
P.J.: "Too many uneven performances, and Leach faces a do-or-die fifth year."
Nick: "Steal a win from Oregon and it all comes down to the Apple Cup."
Colin: "WSU will win one it shouldn't (Stanford) and lose one it shouldn't (Colorado)."
Scott: "Cougars surge in last three games after tough stretch."
Brynne: "Would like to trust the defense enough to mark down a sixth win, but I'm not falling for that again."
Zane: "Too many question marks in the secondary to get that elusive 6th win."
Aaron: "After a strong start, back end of the schedule prevents WSU from bowling."
Chet: "Counting on a sixth win against UW is setting ourselves up for disappointment."
Design: Mark Sandritter | Contributors: Jeff Nusser, Kyle Sherwood, Brian Anderson | Special thanks: Tim Cato, Graham MacAree | Photos: WSU Athletic Communications