The Paul Wulff era is over in Pullman. On Aug. 30, the Mike Leach era officially starts and Washington State fans couldn't be more excited. Despite the Cougars 4-8 record last season, WSU really wasn't a bad team. They suffered 3-point losses to both UCLA and Utah, had they won those, they would have been bowl bound. With pirate love Leach manning the ship, look for the Cougars to improve on last year's two conference wins.
Must-see matchup: at BYU
In most years, the Apple Cup game against Washington would be the Cougars must-see matchup, but this isn't most years. With Mike Leach taking over the program, curious college football fans will probably tune-in on Aug. 30 for WSU's nationally televised opener versus BYU. Another reason to watch: it's the Cougars against the Cougars, there's really nothing not to like about this game.
Upset alert: Colorado
If Washington State wants to move up in the Pac-12 North standings this year, they're going to have to beat the bad teams and Colorado is one of the bad teams. The Buffaloes finished the 2011 season at 3-10, the worst overall record in the Pac-12. If WSU can avoid a letdown against Colorado in their Pac-12 opener, the Cougars could open conference play with a win for only the second time since 2006.
It's a breeze (easiest stretch): Sept. 8 through Sept. 22 – Eastern Washington, at UNLV, Colorado
Washington State hasn't qualified for a bowl game since 2003, but since hiring Leach late last year, bowl talk is suddenly a hot topic in Pullman. If the Cougars can win all three games during this stretch, it would go a long way towards ending their 9-year bowl drought.
Brutal stretch: Oct. 13 through Nov. 3 – Cal, at Stanford, at Utah
Although this is a brutal stretch for the Cougars, it's not an impossible stretch. If Leach has Washington State believing in his Air Raid offense by the season's midpoint, then there is no reason to think that WSU can't win one or even two of these games. The scheduling gods were also kind here: Washington State will get Cal the week before the Golden Bears Big Game with Stanford, while the Cougars will get a Stanford team coming off road trips to Notre Dame and Cal.
Aug. 30: at BYU
Sept. 8: Eastern Washington
Sept. 15: at UNLV
Sept. 22: Colorado
Sept. 29: Oregon (at CenturyLink Field, Seattle)
Oct. 6: at Oregon State
Oct. 13: Cal
Oct. 27: at Stanford
Nov. 3: at Utah
Nov. 10: UCLA
Nov. 17: at Arizona State
Nov. 23: Washington