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Wazzu Roundtable: Pullman Air Raid?

For a change of pace, here's an article about Washington St. with a picture of something other than Mike Leach!
For a change of pace, here's an article about Washington St. with a picture of something other than Mike Leach!

TwistNHook: Given how much I blast Washington State in our tumblr feed, we are in every way going to lose this game. I have jinxed us all.

Avinash: You've been doing what? Even with the Pirate, the plunderer of the Holiday Bowl coming along? What exactly have you posted?

TwistNHook: Presenting:
Washington State Spring Game
Cougin' It
Washington State, everybody
Washington State, Just, Just, Washington State

They have been a real easy target these last 5 years. Let us never forget 66-3.

Avinash: Oh heavens. Between this and Mike Leach bobblehead night, we're deader than dead.

TwistNHook: Like that bear Leach hunted?


Kodiak: The Pirate knows how to coach offense and Tuel/Wilson seem like a really good fit. I'd expect the Cougars to be able to put up some points on just about anyone this coming year.

It's not just Leach's system which can be tough to defend; he has his quarterbacks and receivers practice their execution in a unique regimen which is both rigorous and demanding.

If you let Wazzu hang around, I think they'll be dangerous enough on offense that someone is going to get Coug'd this year. (It had better not be us.)

However, I just don't see WSU having the personnel on defense to go toe to toe with the better teams in the Pac-12 over a prolonged slugfest. Although there are some bitter memories of Leach's Texas Tech team being nigh-unstoppable against our '04 squad, the match-ups are different his time around.

We have enough athleticism on defense now that we can play their spread formations straight-up and let our Dline impose their will. The x-factor is going to be our nickel and dime backs. If they're up to the challenge, the Cougs shouldn't be able to exploit one on ones with their five wide-out formations. We might see Josh Hill sliding over from his safety spot to play more slot coverage depending on the match-ups.

Barring some game-breaking turnovers or special teams gaffes, I think we steadily pull this one out.

LeonPowe: Arrgh. 2004. I never understood why with Arrington gashing them, we went away from the run. I mean yeah we were down two touchdowns, but without MacArthur, our passing game was .. . not at its peak.

Oh wait. WSU.

From what I understand, Leach's system takes a couple of years for the QB to get into the groove and know where all the options are - which is why his starting QBs are often first year starters as redshirt seniors. Or am I making things up . . .

Not so worried this year. . . but in years in to come.

UncleSam22: Yeah, I don't think WSU has the defense to stop us, but their offense is going to put up some points and I really think that Leech is going to make them into a decent team. So I agree that this year is not too much to worry about, but the years after that, they could be tough. For me, the real thing is that beyond Tuel and Wilson, I just don't think that WSU has enough personnel to hang with better teams. That's not to say that they aren't going to shock someone, but I think that we are deep enough and good enough across all areas of the ball to be able to make it happen.

Avinash: Everyone appears to have lost their mind in this roundtable. This is Mike Leach. Mike freaking Leach. I might trust us at home, but we're in Pullman. We're in a fireworks show here.

Leach has one of the top QBs in the conference and a more talented version of Crabtree in Marquess Wilson. His offensive system is designed to put up points in bunches. He's taking over a team that nearly won six games last year and hung tough with Washington and Oregon despite being more banged up than The Bride in Kill Bill. This is a team none of you fear?

Also of note:

  • Here are the top ten teams Leach has beaten in his career: 2002 Texas, 2004 Cal, 2007 Oklahoma, 2008 Texas and Oklahoma State. The list doubles when we move to top 25 teams.
  • Here are the teams Leach's Texas Tech teams have lost to at home: 2009 A&M (ranked), 2007 Colorado, #5 Texas and #25 Missouri (ranked) in 2006, #9 Texas in 2004, #1 Oklahoma, #16 Kansas State in 2003, #16 NC State in 2002, Kansas and #3 Oklahoma in 2001, #1 Nebraska and #20 Texas in 2000. So I'd probably hope Cal is ranked going into Pullman.
  • Texas Tech fell behind 31 points in a bowl game once with seven minutes left in the third quarter. They won.
  • Texas Tech went to a bowl game every season Leach was the coach.

I like our defense, but I loved our 2004 defense, and they gave up 45 points to Sonny Cumbie. Don't sleep on the Cougars anymore. They're going to score, and they're going to be a threat to win.

Atomsareenough: Hah, I might not be quite Avi-level intimidated by the magical powers of MikefreakingLeach just yet, but I agree it's going to be a challenge. As I believe I predicted in the CGB Media Poll, I expect Washington State to be a bowl team this year. That would almost by definition mean they're a quality opponent. So, yeah, I don't expect us to waltz into Pullman and come away with the win because hey, it's Washington State. Those days are over. And yes, they'll be able to score. But I don't anticipate them being quite the well-oiled machine as that Texas Tech team we saw in the Holiday Bowl nearly a decade ago, at least not yet. We'll be able to get enough stops. We can double-cover Marquess Wilson and make some them have to use some of their lesser receivers to try to beat us. They don't have the same level of talent or experience as we do. Last time we were in Pullman, it was close... but remember, last time we were in Pullman, we were riding rather low in the water aboard the Brock Mansion Party Yacht. I'm significantly more confident in our team depth on both sides of the ball this year. It might be a shootout, but I think we win by 1-2 touchdowns. Let's say 45-35, Bears.

Ohio Bear: I don't think there's ever been a time in the history of my Cal fandom that I WASN'T worried when Cal traveled to Pullman. This is always an uncomfortable trip because we just never know what we're going to see out of our Bears. And I don't care that we've won three straight there -- it's still a "curse of the Palouse" kind of place to me.

And now the Wazzus have Mike Leach? Oh boy. They're going to have some fun in the Palouse. I agree with Avi that Leach's presence means we can expect great things from the Cougs offensively. What I wonder is if the Cougs have enough defense to stop all of the weapons Cal has. Of course, they might not have to if Cal stops itself with turnovers and mistakes, things that can happen on the road.

Can Cal win this game? Sure. But it won't be easy.

Berkelium97: Wazzu should be good on offense, but they have to be worried about their ability to pass to someone besides Wilson. We're in the same boat in that both teams have a star receiver returning...and that's about it depth-wise. I doubt the Cougs have the same quality of receivers joining the team this summer as we have at Cal. For now, I'm fairly confident in the defense's ability to lock down Wilson and force the others to try to beat our coverage. Plus, WSU has had abysmal offensive lines recently, see 3.17 sacks allowed per game last season (114th in the nation). We should not have much trouble getting pressure to Tuel.

On the other side of the ball, the Cougs have been near the bottom of the conference on defense for several years. Leach isn't exactly known for building defensive stalwarts, so we can expect the Coug defense to continue to be bad. Although the Cougs struggled to contain anyone's offense, Washington State returns a fair amount of experience on defense. They gave up 31.8 points per game last year (up to 34.6 in Pac-12 games).

Their run defense was their "strength" and they were okay in that facet. They still allowed 4.40 yards per carry (76th in the nation) and 157 yards per game (63rd). Pass defense is where they really struggled. They simply could not pressure opposing QBs and only registered 17 sacks all year. Of course, 6 of these were against Idaho State and 3 were against Colorado (MARSHAAAAAALLLLLL). And since they could not pressure opposing QBs, those QBs had field days against the Wazzu defense. Quarterbacks had an average passer efficiency rating of 152.97 against the Cougs--only sixteen players in the entire nation had QB ratings that high last year. They also allowed opposing QBs to complete 64.2% of their passes (105th in the nation) and pile up a stellar 8.5 yards per pass attempt (112th). The Wazzu defense was not very opportunistic and only forced 17 turnovers last year. Again, if you cannot pressure the QB he will complete his passes and avoid turnovers. Washington State has a lot of work to do on defense.

Want to supercharge those sunshine pumps? Remember that the game against Washington State began Maynard's streak of excellent games to end the regular season.

Norcalnick: The positive scenario for this game is pretty obvious - Leach just doesn't have the talent yet, and Cal's offense moves the ball easily in a relatively comfortable road win.

But a negative scenario would probably play out similarly to Cal's trip to Reno two years ago. Cal is befuddled by a lethal quick-strike offensive scheme. The offense moves the ball easily, but dumb mistakes prevent Cal from turning those yards into points. In a game that should be a shootout, Cal falls 40-something to 30-something.

I think a win is more likely than a loss, but I'm certainly not discounting the very plausible sounding scenario above.

Atomsareenough: Just to remind everyone, Nevada ended up being a top ten team that went 11-1 that year. For Wazzu to replicate that high a level of play so quickly would be almost unbelievable. I'd strongly consider converting to Piratism or whatever dark arts Mike Leach subscribes to if he could turn the Cougs around that dramatically, that quickly.

Norcalnick: I'm not saying Nevada 2010=WSU 2012 - I just think that if Cal loses this game, that's how it will happen.

Hydrotech: I'm a little concerned about Mike Leach at Washington State. In 2009 (Leach's last year at Texas Tech), he had four wide receivers notch 500+ yards in the season. And nine receivers had 25+ catches in the season. This offense will get the ball to anyone and everyone through the air.

And Leach's offenses didn't just have success in the air, they also had success on the ground. His top three runningbacks all averaged over 5.0 yards a carry! Granted, they didn't have a ton of rushes, but when they did rush the ball they were productive.

Maybe it will take Leach another 2-3 years to install his offense and recruit the perfect players for his offense, but I think he can instantly make Washington State more dangerous than they were last year. Marquess Wilson + Tuel + Rickey Galvin (from Berkeley nonetheless!) + Air Raid offense = dangerous!

I wouldn't be surprised if Cal flattens the Cougars in a fairly uncontested matchup, but then again, I wouldn't be surprised if the Cougars surprise people next year and steal a few games they weren't expected to win.

Kodiak: In some ways, Cal-WSU 2012 could be like Cal-Air Force '07. We might get punched in the mouth early and be surprised by their offense. Even the oldest, bluest part of me has trouble thinking that they have the personnel to withstand our offense for four quarters. Clearly, I'm an idjut. In the years to come, the Pirate will make WSU a really tough out. But, I just don't see it this next year. Which makes me an idjut.

TwistNHook: Score predictions?

Ohio Bear: A shootout that we somehow manage to win. Cal 35, WSU 30

Unclesam22: Cal 42 WSU 35

Ohio Bear: Too bad you didn't say 42-38. That would have been an excuse to find and post video of the Joe Ayoob-led rally to victory over WSU in 2005. Ayoob to Hawk, FTW!!!

Norcalnick: Lareylle Cunningham!

LeonPowe: 42-38 Cal!

Berkelium97: Cal 45, WSU 35