The Washington State Cougars travel to Laramie to take on the Wyoming Cowboys in a game that WSU fans have long anticipated would be difficult for the Cougs. We’re all well aware of Mike Leach’s history in openers since he came to Pullman, the game is on the road, the Cowboys feature a superlative defense, the Cougs will be breaking in a new QB, and did we mention the Cougs are 1-5 in openers under Leach?
It looks like the rest of the college football universe is catching on to our angst, as Wyoming has become a trendy pick to upset the Cougs.
Las Vegas Line and Odds
WSU opened this game in most places as a 3.5- or 4-point favorite. But since then, the line has steadily dropped to where now the Vegas Insider consensus line has been bouncing between WSU as a 1- and 2-point favorite.
“Earlier in the preseason I predicted Washington State would win a close one. Not trying to be a homer, but I will flip that prediction this week. Wyoming 24, Washington State 21”
“This was actually my upset pick headed into the year, but it’s not all that hot of a take at this point; some betting lines actually went in Wyoming’s favor before drifting back to Wazzu. I’m going to say Wyoming 20 Washington State 14”
“Wyoming has a slight advantage in playing last week while Wazzu must also travel to Laramie and deal with the altitude with or without beet juice. Eastern Carolina transfer Gardner Minshew is almost certain to start for the Cougars at QB and his experience as a grad transfer will be the difference. Wyoming 20 Washington State 23”
“Wyoming 24 Washington State 21”
“I think Craig Bohl is do for a P5 win. I think the Cowboys ride the energy provided by War Memorial Stadium and take an early lead and the defense does their thing. Wyoming 27 Washington State 17”
History does not favor Washington State in this clash. The Cougars have dropped their last seven season openers on the road, dating back to 2004. Wyoming has an elite defense and Laramie is never an easy place to play. Washington State struggled to protect the quarterback a year ago and that could spell trouble as the post-Falk era gets underway.
Prediction: Wyoming 24, Washington State 21
Predicting the Pac: Week One - Duck Territory
Prehm: Upset alert! We know nothing about Washington State's offense and their defense was gutted from last year. The Cougars always open up slow to start the season and last week Wyoming looked way better than expected against New Mexico State. I am taking the Cowboys in a game that will embarress the Pac-12. Prehm Score Prediction: Wyoming 28, Washington State 27
Line: WSU -1 (total: 45.5) Trends: Cougars have failed to cover in the last four openers (Rutgers, Portland State, Eastern Washington, Montana).Comment: Home team with a game under its belt and 17 returning starters against a visitor playing its opener at altitude with a new quarterback. What am I missing here? Oh, yeah. Personnel. WSU has the edge, but not by enough. Pick: Wyoming
The Cougars finally snapped their five-year streak of season-opening losses last year with a win against Montana State, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see them return to their losing ways this year on the road in Laramie. The Cougs are breaking in a new starter at quarterback, replacing a pair of All-Americans in Hercules Mata’afa and Cody O’Connell, and welcoming a new defensive coordinator and coaches at the cornerbacks, safeties and outside linebackers positions. It’s going to take some time for this group to find its sea legs, and while that period endures, it would almost be a surprise if the team didn’t drop a winnable game such as this one, especially on the road. Wyoming 27, Washington State 17.
Washington State is going to struggle throughout this game. Look for the offense to score points, but not in bunches like in years past. Expect the defense to look bad in this one. The Wyoming Cowboys could be the more talented team than Washington State this season. Expect running back Nico Evans to explode against the Cougars, and get the win. Week 1 Free Score Prediction: Wyoming 31 – Washington State 24
This is a team built around playing stout defense and running the football and this Cowboys defensive line has a chance to be special. They racked up three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss against New Mexico and should get plenty more opportunities to make plays. While the Cougars have more proven players at the skilled positions on offense, this game has all the makings of a gritty, defensive struggle. Washington State is 1-5 in season openers under Mike Leach and this game is no cakewalk. With a game already under their belts, I’m going to roll with Wyoming at home in this spot over a power conference school. Prediction: Pick: Wyoming Cowboys +3.5
There might be a bit of power-conference bias in that line, however. Think about this: Wyoming has the advantage of having already played a game, and anyone who stayed up late last Saturday saw the Cowboys defense dismantle New Mexico State. And the Cowboys are playing at home at the highest elevation (more than 7,000 feet) of any Division I team in the nation. Washington State might be walking into a trap, and your upset meter should be on high alert. Pick: Wyoming +1.5 or Wyoming money line +105
Again, hard to argue with any of the reasoning there — but it’s DISREPEKT!! all the same. If you’re looking for a couple of good signs, though? Here are some sharps who like the Cougs:
Washington State minus-1 at Wyoming, over/under: 45. Few coaches have produced more consistent offensive results and betting profitability than Washington State's Mike Leach, which provides some comfort despite massive roster turnover. Hype is a little too high on Wyoming, which dismantled New Mexico State 29-7 as 4.5-point favorites last week, as this line opened Washington State minus-3.5. Lean: Washington State minus-1.
SU Winner – Washington State, ATS Winner – Washington State
Washington State is just a three point favorite over Wyoming, who is entering the post-Josh Allen era. While I think Wyoming's defense is solid, the Cougs have enough talent on offense to cover this small spread. Look for Washington State to win comfortably.
Washington State 23, Wyoming 17. Line: Washington State -2.5, o/u: 47. ATS Confidence out of 5: 3.5
I do believe the Wyoming defense is good enough to make things interesting. But the air-raid offense that Leach runs is tough to keep under wraps for 60 minutes. I also don’t think the Cowboys will have the same kind of success on offense as they enjoyed against New Mexico State. Eventually, the Cowboys will have to force the issue and throw the ball downfield in order to keep up. That’s when the Cougars will get separation and be able to cover the 3.5-point spread.
Additionally, 74 percent of the spread money so has come in on the Cowboys (according to Vegas Insider), yet the Cougs are still favored, albeit not by much.
Anyway, if the Cougs figure out a way to lose another opener, there will be a lot of people running around telling everyone they saw it coming. And if the Cougs figure out a way to go in and stomp the Cowboys, there will be a lot of people who will look very silly.
Not that anyone will remember who picked the Cowboys ...