November 3, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach (left) and Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham talk prior to a game at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Earlier this winter, I put together 10 Bold Predictions for the upcoming Washington State football season (which I plan to update shortly, possibly as soon as tomorrow morning) and head Mike Leach seems to think at least one of those predictions is bound to happen. Which one?
That’s right, the Cougar Pirate Captain earmarked a 9-win 2014 season at Friday night’s events in Seattle, part of “A Night With Cougar Football”.
"Speaking on behalf of the entire team, we feel like we should have nine (wins)”"
Is it ambitious in an increasingly difficult Pac-12 Conference? Absolutely, but it’s not out of the question, not by a long shot. Looking at the schedule, the games I predicted (still predict) the Cougars to lose are games against Oregon, USC and Arizona State. Even though two of those games come at home, I just think some more important factors come into play.
- The Ducks will be right in the thick of the first Playoff in college football history and with Mariota back along with droves of team speed, I don’t see the Cougars pulling a win there. I think it will be closer than the 62-38 pancaking the Cougs received last season though.
- The Trojans’ familiarity with WSU under Sarkisian along with ridiculous amounts of returning talent should prove too much to overcome. I expect both teams to score more points, obviously, but the USC defense was too fast for Wazzu in ’13 and there’s no reason to think that will change.
- And the Cougars down in Tempe is just normally a disaster, regardless of the team that ASU deploys. On top of that, the Devils return a stupid amount of talent to a team that romped WSU in Pullman last year and should be vying for their 2nd Pac-12 South crown in two years.
- While no game will be easy, my other potentially huge road blocks lie at Stanford and at Nevada. The first road game is always challenging and Stanford will be tough again, but I think the Cardinal will be down enough defensively for the Cougars to move the ball when they need and not quite as strong offensively as last year. I see an ‘upset’ there.
Leach didn’t put together a list of any sort, but every other game on the schedule looks very winnable and the Cougars had the most trouble with these teams last season, so these are the games I would anticipate him putting in the loss column initially. Less wins would certainly not be a failure (many are putting the Cougs back in the less-wins-than-losses column for the 2014 season), but to me, anything less than 7 wins would be a surprise.