Game time: 11 p.m. ET; September 4, 2021
Venue: Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA
Where to watch: Pac-12 Network
Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks
DraftKings: Washington State -16.5; O/U 67; ML: Washington State -850, Utah State +575
BetMGM: Washington State -17; O/U 66.5; ML: Washington State -833, Utah State +550
Caesars: Washington State -17; O/U 66.5; ML: Washington State -900, Utah State +600
2020 season record
Utah State: 1-5
Washington State: 1-3
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Utah State - Washington State preview and analysis
The ghost of Mike Leach roams in Pullman, Washington.
Whether or not he leaves or haunts that city forever may depend on what Nick Rolovich does in this new era of the Washington State Cougars.
Just three seasons ago the Cougars were a top-10 team with Leach at the helm. Now with Leach at Mississippi State, the let-it-fly offense that made Pullman a fun destination for the Pac-12 is now in question.
The Cougars will begin their first full season without Leach as coach on Saturday when the Utah State Aggies visit Martin Stadium.
Wazzu played only four games during their first season with Rolovich, the former Hawaii coach who led the Rainbow Warriors to two Hawaii Bowl victories and three appearances in four years. That Rainbow Warriors offense has a bit of what the Cougars did under Leach. Rolovich coached the 24th best offense in 2019 at 33.9 points per game.
If that kind of offense can translate from the Mountain West to the Pac-12, but trying to find out who’s the right one to lead this offense is the question. Rolovich has to choose between Jarrett Guarantano, a grad transfer from Tennessee, and sophomore Jayden de Laura.
The Cougars only saw the field four times in their 2020 schedule due to COVID. They won their November season opener 38-28 against the Oregon State Beaves, but lost by multiple scores the following games to Oregon, USC and Utah.
Safe to say there’s not a lot of data to go off of when it comes to evaluating how this team will look under a new coach. But they’ll be at home, playing in front of a packed crowd, and that stadium can get loud.
Washington State will take on a Utah State that, much like the Cougars, have fallen off in recent memory. Once a program that built a reputation on being feared defensively, the Aggies have the potential to get back to that point, but new head coach Blake Anderson has a daunting task of bringing Utah State back from a 1-5 record last season.
In a rare instance, the Aggies found themselves in last place in the Mountain Division in the Mountain West Conference. And in an even rarer occurrence, Utah State’s defense allowed a staggering 35.2 points per game. Somehow, UNLV was worse at 38 per game.
Anderson went 51-37 during his time at Arkansas State, and he’ll have former Arkansas State quarterback Logan Bonner directing his offense. Bonner passed for 3,166 yards and 30 touchdowns in his time with ASU. Also following Anderson is former Arkansas State linebacker Justin Rice. The senior was first-team All-Sun Belt Conference in 2020 after spending the previous four seasons at Fresno State.
You need to be careful with some of these games because of that fear of the unknown with the year prior in the world of college football. That primarily rings true with Utah State, especially playing up to their competition against a Pac-12 team. The defensive pedigree is just too good to think one pandemic-shortened year will end everything. But that home crowd is certainly going to be fired up for the return of their Cougars, and despite the uncertainty at quarterback, this should be a great homecoming for Wazzu. Washington State wins 27-17.
Anderson as a coach is 13-18-1 against the spread as a road underdog.
Rolovich is 5-12-1 as a home favorite against the spread.
Utah State is 2-9 as an underdog straight up in its last 11 games.
The over is 10-3 in Washington State’s last 13 Saturday games.
Statistical leaders from 2020
Passing: Jason Shelley -- 420 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Jaylen Warren -- 252 yards, 3 TD
Receiving: Deven Thompkins -- 214 yards, 1 TD
Defense: AJ Vongphachanh -- 50 tackles, 3 sacks
Passing: Jayden de Laura -- 886 yards, 5 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Deon McIntosh -- 323 yards, 3 TD
Receiving: Travel Harris -- 340 yards, 2 TD
Defense: Daniel Isom -- 32 tackles
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