Washington state football fans knew that Saturday’s game against Oregon was important. After UO’s big win over UW, it became a battle for first place in the PAC-12 North.
Next Saturday’s showdown with the Oregon Ducks already had Washington State football fans excited. Then the Ducks beat Washington yesterday. On a scale of one to ten, as Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap might say, “this one goes to 11.” We are going to look at how this game affects the conference, team, and a few individuals as well.
Should the Cougars win on Saturday, they are in the driver’s seat of the PAC-12 North Division. Additionally, they control their own destiny from that game forward. As long as they keep winning (which won’t be easy), Washington State can go as far as the poll voter’s take them. Even as far as the College Football playoffs.
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The PAC-12 administration, especially general counsel Woodie Dixon, and commissioner Larry Scott are reeling after this week’s targeting controversy that may have cost WSU a win against Southern California. If I’m a PAC-12 Conference bigwig, I’m rooting for whoever Washington State plays and hope that WSU loses at least two more games. That way they can tell everyone that the Cougars 39-36 loss to USC didn’t affect the conference championship picture.
Five of the Cougars next six games are against teams that are either now or were in the top-25 within the past month, Oregon, Stanford, Cal, Colorado, and Washington. Beating Oregon on Saturday serves notice that Washington State is a PAC-12 contender and that they can defeat very good football teams.
This game will have lots of interest in both the PAC-12 and nationally. There are two quarterbacks that can air it out leading a pair of explosive offenses. It may turn out to be one of the more watched games in its time slot because, outside of the SEC, the only other big team playing is second-ranked Ohio State against mediocre Purdue. Washington State finally gets a big-time spotlight.
Not only does this game serve as a “hey remember me” opportunity for Mike Leach on the national stage, but it could also provide a huge boost to the Washington State football program. As mentioned earlier, this game will have lots of “eyes” on it. A win or even a very good showing will make an impact on recruits.
Mike Leach is an offensive innovator. It’s almost guaranteed that he’ll pull out a few gadget plays on Saturday. There will be some high profile recruits that, once introduced to the “Air Raid” offense, will want to be part of it. There is an opportunity to make an impact, not only this week but several years down the road.
Emerald City Swagger’s College Football Roundtable this month asked if Gardner Minshew II is a legitimate Heisman Trophy Candidate. The reaction as expected was mixed. Saturday’s game is a chance for him to be seen by the voters. Oregon has a high-end pass rush. If Minshew can handle it with the same poise he has shown so far this season, people will be impressed.
As a matter of fact, if Washington State keeps winning, he’ll get more national television appearances. Not only will he be seen by Heisman voters, but NFL scouts will also get a better look at the graduate transfer gunslinger. A string of good performances on a national stage may get him selected in the 2019 draft. What team doesn’t want a six-foot, two-inch, accurate quarterback, with a big arm and fearless in the pocket?
To sum up, this game is important on many levels.