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.
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.
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)
- 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
|Date||Opponent||Last yr's result (if played)|
|Sept. 3||Eastern Washington|
|Sept. 10||at Boise State|
|Oct. 1||Oregon*||W, 45-38|
|Oct. 8||at Stanford*||L, 30-28|
|Oct. 15||UCLA*||W, 31-27|
|Oct. 22||at Arizona State*||W, 38-24|
|Oct. 29||at Oregon State*||W, 52-31|
|Nov. 5||Arizona*||W, 45-42|
|Nov. 12||Cal*||L, 34-28|
|Nov. 19||at Colorado*||W, 27-3|
|Nov. 25||Washington*||L, 45-10|
Washington State: The last 5 years
|2015||9-4/6-3||—/—||Sun Bowl, W|
|2013||6-7/4-5||—/—||New Mexico Bowl, L|
|Total||25-37, 15-30||2 bowl games (1-1)|
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.
1 school: Pac-12 (25-Washington State)