Quarterback Luke Falk #4 of the Washington State Cougars celebrates after the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Eugene, Oregon. The Cougars won the game 45-38 in overtime.(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Football

The American-Statesman’s Top 25: No. 25 Washington State

Posted July 6th, 2016

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Sure, it’s just July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last season’s four College Football Playoff semifinalists were rated Nos. 3, 6, 13 and 24 on our 2015 list.

Today’s team: No. 25 Washington State (Related coverage: Washington State’s Sorenson leans on extended family in times of crisis)

The Cougars will contend if … they can prove that last year’s nine wins is the new norm instead of an aberration — Washington State averaged 3.7 wins per season from 2004 to 2014. If an experienced and pass-happy offense led by junior quarterback Luke Falk continues to put points on the scoreboard, nine wins might be a low bar to hurdle.

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INSIDE THE COUGARS

Coach: Mike Leach (fifth year, 21-29; overall, 105-71)

2015: 9-4, 6-3 in the Pac-12; beat Miami in the Sun Bowl 20-14

Returning starters: 8 offense, 6 defense

The key game: Nov. 25, Washington

Hello: QB Luke Falk, WR Gabe Marks, OL Riley Sorenson

Goodbye: OL Joe Dahl (Detroit Lions), DL Darryl Paulo (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), DT Destiny Vaeao

Spring cleaning: The Cougars lost only one of their top five pass catchers from 2015 but do have two new assistant coaches — Dave Nichol (outside receivers) and JaMarcus Shephard (inside receivers). … The 2016 recruiting class was ranked 56th in the nation by 247Sports’ composite ratings; no single recruit was rated higher than three stars. … Dahl was Washington State’s only player to be drafted (Lions, fifth round), though others have signed as undrafted free agents.

Gabe Marks #9 of the Washington State Cougars catches a pass for a touchdown as Soso Jamabo #1 of the UCLA Bruins defends during the fourth quarter of a game at Rose Bowl on November 14, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Gabe Marks #9 of the Washington State Cougars catches a pass for a touchdown as Soso Jamabo #1 of the UCLA Bruins defends during the fourth quarter of a game at Rose Bowl on November 14, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: Luke Falk, 447-644-4,561 yards, 38/8 (1st)

Rushing: Gerard Wicks, 107-610-3 (1st)

Receiving: Gabe Marks, 104-1,192-15 (1st)

Tackles: LB Peyton Pelluer, 101 (1st)

Sacks: DE Hercules Mata’afa, 7 (T-1st)

RETURNING ALL CONFERENCE (2)

Offense: QB Luke Falk (1st team); WR Gabe Marks (1st team)

Defense: None

FYI …

  • Falk, a former walk-on, threw for a school-record 38 touchdowns in his first full season as Washington State’s starter, and last year’s 4,561 passing yards fell just 36 yards shy of that mark in Washington State’s history books. Falk won’t be alone on an offense that averaged 31.5 points per game; the Cougars return their leading receiver (Marks), rusher (Wicks) and scorer (kicker Erik Powell).
  • Washington State allowed 27.7 points per game in 2015, and a defense that ranked seventh in the Pac-12 lost its only two all-conference players — Paulo and Vaeao — to graduation. The Cougars do return senior safety Shalom Luani and junior cornerback Marcellus Pippins, who combined for seven interceptions last season.
  • Three of the first five games are against teams ranked in the American-Statesman’s preseason poll, but the Cougars would be foolish to overlook their in-state opener against 2010 FCS champion Eastern Washington. The Eagles play in the Big Sky Conference, the home of a Portland State team that opened last year with a 24-17 win over Washington State.

Washington State's 2016 schedule

DateOpponentLast yr's result (if played)
Sept. 3Eastern Washington
Sept. 10at Boise State
Sept. 17Idaho
Oct. 1Oregon*W, 45-38
Oct. 8at Stanford*L, 30-28
Oct. 15UCLA*W, 31-27
Oct. 22at Arizona State*W, 38-24
Oct. 29at Oregon State*W, 52-31
Nov. 5Arizona*W, 45-42
Nov. 12Cal*L, 34-28
Nov. 19at Colorado*W, 27-3
Nov. 25Washington*L, 45-10
*Pac-12 game

Washington State: The last 5 years

YearW-L/Conf.RankBowl
20159-4/6-3—/—Sun Bowl, W
20143-9/2-7—/—No bowl
20136-7/4-5—/—New Mexico Bowl, L
20123-9/1-8—/—No bowl
20114-8/2-7—/—No bowl
Total25-37, 15-302 bowl games (1-1)
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking.

2015 NATIONAL RANKS

Scoring: 49th (31.5 ppg)

Scoring defense: 74th (27.7 ppg)

Passing yards: 1st (389.5 ypg)

Rushing yards: 127th (80.1 ypg)

TOP 25 SO FAR …

No. 25: Washington State

No. 24: Coming Thursday. Want a hint? The head coach also played at this school — its first alumnus to become head football coach.

BY CONFERENCE

1 school: Pac-12 (25-Washington State)

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