I answer five questions on the Cougars.
What are the most notable changes you've seen with WSU between last year and this year? How have they improved? Where have they struggled?
They actually look like they can at least try and run the ball when they need to as to keep defenses from simply keying in on the passing game. On defense, they had a better front seven than most people realized, but I think they have stepped up even higher this year and it has allowed the back four to be more opportunistic and jump balls. I think those changes have served as improvements but I think their biggest struggle right now is going to be at quarterback. Connor Halliday continues to regularly throw head scratching interceptions, and it will continue to cost them games, like it did against Auburn, unless he can clean it up.
What's been the more impressive unit so far, the offense or the defense?
The defense. The offense has still been shaky against good competition, but the defense held USC to just seven points and played well enough to beat Auburn, but gave up one big run and got let down by the special teams unit on a kick return. The front seven is big and strong and the defensive backs are hard hitting and not afraid to go after the ball.
Where is Washington State still struggling and where is there room for improvement?
The Cougars cannot protect the passer and Connor Halliday cannot handle pressure. They are going to have to figure out how to protect Halliday under pressure and he's going to have to figure out how to throw the ball away when he has defenders in his face.
Find three wins on the schedule for Washington State to get to a bowl game. Justify why those are the games the Cougars can score some upsets.
1. Utah - Though they look improved, the Utes are still at best a middle-level Pac-12 team and the Cougars can match their talent and get them in Pullman in late-November.
2. Oregon State - The Beavers defense is atrocious and they have to come to Pullman where the Cougars can outscore them on offense and have a defense that can slow down their offense.
3. Cal - Like the Beavers, the Bears have a horrible defense that the Cougars can score against, and a one-dimensional offense that they can thwart by grabbing a couple of interceptions.
Describe the formula that will power WSU to victory over Stanford.
The Cougars sell out to the run and force the Cardinal to try and beat them with their limited skill position players and force the Cardinal into field goals and instead of touchdowns, holding them to less than 20 points. On offense, they don't get greedy, move the ball down the field with short passes and get the ball into the end zone a few times. They will also force a turnover or two that either directly results in points or a short field that makes the difference.