Hey, remember football? Specifically, Pac-12 football? Even more specifically, Oregon State Beaver football? Its back.
The Beavers’ season kicks off with what the first game in what could become one of the Pac-12’s most entertaining new rivalries. Many teams in the conference have gone through big changes in 2020, but the Washington State Cougars may have gone through the most. Here’s what the team looks like this season.
Washington State Offense
Head Coach Mike Leach is gone, having left for Mississippi State. Also gone are Quarterback Anthony Gordon and three of the team’s top receivers. The era of the air raid appears to have ended in Pullman.
Hawaii Head Coach Nick Rolovich, who the Beavers have some history with, comes in as Leach’s replacement. Rolovich has put together some potent offenses for the Warriors, but it’ll be different then Leach’s teams. Rolovich isn’t afraid to run, which is a good sign for the team’s best returning skill player, Running Back Max Borghi.
Borghi rushed for 817 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, and as a receiver added another 597 yards and 5 touchdowns. He’s got good speed in the open field, and is solid at running between tackles. Whatever shape the offense ends up taking, Borghi will be its centerpiece.
Earlier this week, in a very surprising move, Rolovich announced that true freshman Jayden de Laura would be the team’s starter against Oregon State. De Laura was a state champion in Hawaii, and has experience in the kind of run and shoot system that Rolovich is expected to implement.
The Cougars top receivers all graduated, but there’s still some experience at the position. Borghi is technically the team’s top returning receiver, but in terms of players who usually line up wide, Renard Bell is the top returning target. Bell had 579 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns. Travell Harris is right behind him, with 535 yards and 5 touchdowns. Its a solidly experienced unit.
The offensive line will have to fill some gaps, and shift to a style that better suits the run and shoot, but there’s a good amount of experience there as well.
For more information about the Run and Shoot, and how Wazzu intends to implement it, check out CougCenter’s Primer.
Washington State Defense
Last year’s Wazzu D was famously terrible. After allowing 50 points in the second half in a 67-63 loss against UCLA, Defensive Coordinator Tracy Claeys resigned. Wyoming’s Jake Dickert took over the job after a few great seasons with the Cowboys, but its going to take some time for a new system to be put in place, and its not clear if the Cougars have the personnel to get much better in 2020.
There’s continuity on the Defensive Line and in the Linebacker corps, although considering how both units performed last year that might not be a good thing. One of the team’s key transfers is Defensive Tackle Amir Mujahid who is expected to contribute right away. Linebacker Jahad Woods is one of the defense’s best returning players, and should step into a leadership role this season.
Dickert is expected to run a 4-2-5 formation, which for a defense still taking shape, and that may not be great at play reaction, could be a good fit. Dallas Hobbs fits the role of a run clogging tackle, and Willie Taylor III has shown potential as an edge rusher. There are big questions in the secondary however.
Wazzu’s secondary is the defensive group with the most turnover. Two transfers, Jaylen Watson and Phillip Powell, are expected to start immediately. Daniel Isom, who was kicked off the team last year for an undisclosed team violation, is back with the new coaching staff. Its unknown if he’ll line up at Safety or Cornerback, but there’s clearly a role they have planned for him.
There’s not a ton of experience here, and the unit does not seem particularly deep. Expect this to be the unit that the Pac-12’s more up tempo offenses focus on attacking.
The Vegas Line for this game is Oregon State -1.5.
Washington State is going through some big changes, and with the shortened season and lack of practice time they’re going to go through some harder growing pains than they might in a normal season. This team will probably be playing better by the end of the season, which presents a good opportunity for the Beavers.
The Washington State defense is going to be bad. How bad is up for debate, but there are clear avenues for attack. The passing defense is very untested, and last year’s run defense was very poor. The Beavers are also breaking in a new starting quarterback, and have an offensive line that is extremely questionable. Both teams will probably rely on the run early, while testing each other’s passing defense.
The Cougars D should break first, but this is probably going to turn into one of the shootouts the Cougars have been famous for for the past few seasons. Neither the Beavers and Cougars will have the high octane offenses they had in the last matchup, but this should still be high scoring. With the Beavers better defense, and my blatant homerism, I give them the edge, let’s say 46-42.
- Time: 7:30 PT
- Date: Saturday, November 7th
- Location: Reser Stadium - Corvallis Oregon
- Broadcast: Fox Sports 1