Do you smell that?
That’s the smell of leather and hot rubber pellets baking on turf fields.
In other words, it’s the smell of football! The season officially kicks off this weekend and the Aggies will take part in opening weekend by heading up to the Palouse and taking on Mike Leach’s 23rd ranked Washington State Cougars.
I have already previewed all of NM State’s positions but if you need a refresher, or missed them, you can find them here. Or you can take a look at the two deep here. In this preview, I will be taking a look at the Cougars and their biggest storylines heading into Saturday’s game.
*Quick note: Sage Doxtater will be out Saturday.
Game Location: Martin Stadium, Pullman, Washington
Game Time: August 31st, 8 p.m. MT
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: 99.5 KXPZ
Weather Forecast: 88 degrees, partly sunny
Betting Line: Washington State is a 32 point favorite
Series History: This is the first ever matchup between the Aggies and Cougars.
No More Mustache
Washington State enters the season coming off their best record in program history, riding “The ‘Stache” on their way to 11 wins and an Alamo Bowl victory.
Gardner Minshew, a.k.a. “The ‘Stache”, graduated last year so the Cougars will have a new quarterback to break in against NM State. That new QB1 will be Anthony Gordon, a fifth year senior who has been behind Luke Falk and Gardner Minshew the last three seasons. Gordon beat out Gabe Gubrud, one of the best dual threat FCS quarterbacks, from Eastern Washington despite only having five career pass attempts.
Gordon is a former JUCO QB and has not had much game experience, which bodes well for the Aggies. If they are able to get him rattled early, this game has a chance of being close. Let’s hope Spaziani has some special blitzes with Gordon’s name on them.
Solid Supporting Cast
Helping Gordon out will be an army of talented receivers and running backs, plus a stout offensive line.
The Cougars return their top three receivers from last year’s team. Dezmon Patmon, Tay Martin and Easop Winston combined for 182 receptions, 2,155 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2018 and are primed for another big season.
If you think that’s a lot to cover, the Cougars also have some receiving options out of the backfield. RB Max Borghi returns for his sophomore season as “the back”, having rushed for 366 yards and catching another 374. The Aggies will have their hands full.
The strength of the Cougars’ O is their offensive line though. Despite throwing 677 times last year, the line only gave up 13 sacks and return five with starting experience. Despite losing a first round draft choice in Andre Dillard, WSU still has four returning starters.
Will there be any defense?
Yes. Despite the offense getting all the attention, DC Tracy Claeys improved this side of the ball last season, dropping the points per game allowed to 23.3.
Watch out for LB Jahad Woods (top returning tackler, 82 tackles last season), DT Will Rogers (7.5 TFLs in 2018) and CB Marcus Strong (41 tackles, 3 INTs, 6 PBUs).
Another player to watch is SS Jalen Thompson who had 67 tackles, 8 PBUs and two picks last year.
I think Gordon will look average to start the game against the Aggies, and the game will be close going into halftime but I won’t be surprised if Gubrud comes in in the second half.
Washington State 56, NM State 28