College football reenters our lives in a few hours, which also means Mike Leach is back in our lives. That is something to cheer about for all fans of the pigskin, but particularly the long-suffering fans in Pullman.
Tonight isn't as much about the game for the Washington State Cougars; it's more about regaining relevance. For a decade they've wandered lost and adrift in a conference that was starting to pass it by and leave it in the dust. It was a wonder it didn't happen sooner. The isolated nature of Pullman made it hard to pull good recruits and good talent to compete. WSU began to decline, and some openly pondered as to their future in major college football.
After cresting with Mike Price's talent, Bill Doba went 20-26 in his final four years at Washington State with no bowl appearances, and the recruiting worsened every year. He left the cupboard bare for Paul Wulff, who forced Cougar fans to endure three of the worst possible seasons a college football fan can possibly endure.
Now? For the first time in a long time, people are anticipating Washington State football. In a world where attention is fleeting and sparing, that means something. That matters.Washington State isn't favored to win. Odds are they're probably going to lose. BYU's defense is likely to be one of the best in the nation: The Cougars return a loaded linebacking corps and secondary, which will cause all sorts of trouble for a Washington State offense that relies on quick passing hitting and timing. Although BYU's offense is more of a question mark, they will have enough talent to overwhelm what still figures to be the weakest unit in the conference, i.e. the WSU defense.
No one knows what could happen tonight. But all eyes are on Washington State football, and everyone can't wait to see what the Cougars can do. When was the last time you said that?
SB Nation Snippets (click the links for the full posts)
Offensive preview from CougCenter, written by Craig Powers: "BYU featured a balanced attack under offensive coordinator Brandon Doman in 2011. They were just about 50/50 with rush attempts and estimated dropbacks (pass attempts + sacks). S&P (what's that?) had the offense around the middle, ranked 55th overall. Both their running game and passing game were ranked 53rd ... BYU should put up a healthy dose of points against a WSU defense that will rely heavily on turnovers and big plays this season. With a senior quarterback, the Cougs (WSU version) will have to force the action if they want to do that. Reports from camp says that forcing the action is the goal, bringing more pressure from all angles in the 3-4. It will certainly be interesting and many fans are more curious about this side of the ball than the one Mike Leach heads up."
Defensive preview from CougCenter, written by Craig Powers: "BYU does not have a defensive coordinator, as head coach Bronco Mendenhall appointed himself in the position after firing Jaime Hill in 2010. Hill was named the coordinator in 2008 and defense was awful his first year, finishing 84th in S&P (What's that?). The defenses showed massive improvement over the next year, as they finished 30th in 2009. Hill was fired in 2010 after the Cougars started the season 1-4. They finished that year ranked 25th in S&P. Interesting enough, BYU finished 80th in offensive S&P, so it appears the blame was directed in the wrong direction. But someone has to get fired when the head coach's butt is on the line, right? The Bronco-led defense didn't really improve, but it did sustain the success of the defense under Hill. BYU finished 29th in S&P a season ago. At least Brigham Young is saving some money."
Brett Hein of Vanquish The Foe profiles Leach's start at Texas Tech and how it compares to Washington State: "One thing that definitely improved under Leach was completion percentage -- though it's hard to know if that was simply because the 48.5% in 1999 was AWFUL. The Washington State QB's Leach inherits were much better than that last year. The QB who threw the most passes for the Cougars last year has graduated. Jeff Tuel will be Wazzu's starter (60% career completion) and Connor Halliday will be at backup (57.3% career completion). Kliff Kingsbury took over in 2000 as a first time starter, but in 2012 Leach gets a senior in Tuel who has thrown 532 career passes."
Bill Connolly has his SB Nation preview of Washington State and talks about the mystery of Leach's new WSU offense: "What makes his return to coaching perhaps even more exciting for offense geeks is one simple, extra point: we don't exactly know what his offense is going to look like at Washington State. He has had two years to tinker in his basement. He brought in an offensive coordinator well-schooled in the Pistol offense. For the blogger world, watching the Wazzu offense jog out onto the field for its first series against BYU on August 30 will make college football's opening night feel even more like Christmas morning than it already did. You have no idea what you are about to see, but you are pretty sure you will like it immensely."