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Washington State Cougars 2017 Football Schedule and Analysis

Luke Falk and the Cougars welcome USC, Stanford, Colorado and Boise State to Pullman this fall

Back-to-back winning seasons have Washington State fans eagerly awaiting to see what the Cougars can do in Luke Falk's senior season. The Air Raid offense, under Falk, has been a living nightmare for opponents.

 

Falk is poised to lead the Pac-12 in multiple passing categories again this season after another stellar campaign in 2016. He threw for 4,468 yards and 38 touchdowns while completing 70 percent of his passes.

 

Related: Washington State Cougars 2017 Spring Football Preview

 

Washington State came within a hair of playing in the Pac-12 Championship Game after bouncing back from a 0-2 start. The schedule in 2017 is set up to build some major momentum early in the season for Mike Leach's team. The Cougars get many of their toughest opponents at home and their toughest road games – at Utah and at Washington – don't come until season's end.

 

2017 Washington State Cougars Schedule

 

Bye: Week 12

 

Wk Opp. Date Location
1. Sept. 2 Pullman, WA

Can the Cougars break the FCS jinx after dropping openers to Portland State and Eastern Washington the past two seasons? Montana State may be the antidote the Cougars need for those struggles. The Bobcats won just four games a year ago and is 0-8 all-time against Washington State. Progress for them this season may hinge on Chris Murray's development as a passing threat. The Montana State quarterback is a strong runner, but he lacked consistency through the air at times last season.

2. Sept. 9 Pullman, WA

The Broncos could take a small step back this season due to inexperience. Boise State must replace several starters on both sides of the ball – including standout running back Jeremy McNichols. Brett Rypien will keep the offense humming. Rypien has thrown for more than 3,000 yards in each of his two seasons as the Broncos' starting quarterback and he is a solid decision- maker. If new pieces fall into place in the backfield, on the offensive line and at linebacker, Boise State could prove difficult for Washington State to handle again.

3. Sept. 16 Pullman, WA

Progress is being made in Corvallis. The Beavers took the Cougars to the wire in a 35-31 loss a year ago and could take another step forward this season if they can conquer the injury bug. Oregon State will need to figure out its starting quarterback sooner rather than later. Junior college transfer Jake Luton is locked into a three-way battle with holdovers Marcus McMaryion and Darell Garretson for the top spot. Luton has tons of potential after throwing for a school-record 3,551 yards and 40 touchdowns at Ventura (Calif.) College last season.

4. Sept. 23 Pullman, WA

New head coach Jay Norvell is installing a new offensive and defensive scheme for the Wolf Pack. Nevada will feature the passing game more prominently and switch to a 3-3-5 alignment on the other side of the ball. Alabama transfer David Cornwell and returning starter Ty Gangi will duel at quarterback. Gangi won the starting job late last season and threw for for 1,301 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior running back James Butler could be a valuable anchor as the team settles into a new offense.

5. Sept. 29 Pullman, WA

The Trojans will offer Washington State a tremendous early challenge. USC transformed overnight after Sam Darnold took over as the starting quarterback. The Trojans ripped off nine straight wins to close out the 2016 season. Darnold played a big role in it. He threw for 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns while completing 67.2 percent of his passes as a true freshman. Ronald Jones II offers another key weapon on offense after putting together a 1,000-yard rushing season last fall. USC's defense should be equally dynamic since top tacklers Cameron Smith and Porter Gustin are both back.

6. Oct. 7 Eugene, OR

A 51-33 victory over the Ducks kicked off a 7-0 start in Pac-12 play for the Cougars last season. Oregon is vulnerable to lose again in Willie Taggart's debut season unless it significantly improves a defense that allowed 518.4 yards and 41.4 points per game a year ago – which ranked 11th in the league in both categories. The offense should be in good shape if quarterback Justin Herbert can build on a strong freshman season. Herbert threw for 1,936 yards and 19 touchdowns in nine games while completing 63.5 percent of his passes.

7. Oct. 13 Berkeley, CA

Defense will be a bigger priority for the Golden Bears under new head coach Justin Wilcox. California's offense could not do enough to offset a porous defense last season. The Bears ranked dead last in the Pac-12 in both scoring (42.6 ppg) and rushing defense (272.83 ypg). Offensively, California must find a way to replace Davis Webb at quarterback. Webb threw for 4,295 yards and 37 touchdowns in his lone season in the Bay area.

8. Oct. 21 Pullman, WA

The Buffaloes ended Washington State's eight-game winning streak last season en route to sealing up their first ever Pac-12 South title. Colorado will present many of the same challenges in the rematch. The Buffaloes will need to fill some holes on the defensive line and in the secondary. They should be as tough as ever offensively with Steven Montez and Phillip Lindsay leading the way. Montez proved himself to be a capable quarterback while filling in for injured starter Sefo Liufau last season. Lindsay broke out in the backfield, churning out 1,252 yards and 16 touchdowns on 5.1 yards per carry.

9. Oct. 28 Tucson, AZ

The Wildcats suffered their worst loss since 1949 last November, as Washington State drubbed them 69-7 in Pullman behind a combined 474 yards and six touchdowns from Falk and backup QB Tyler Hilinski. Matching up better with the Cougars will hinge on improved health at key offensive positions. When he is at full strength, Brandon Dawkins is a potent dual-threat quarterback. Nick Wilson and J.J. Taylor are explosive runners in the backfield. Wilson and Taylor averaged 5.8 yards and 6.9 yards per carry respectively in injury-shortened campaigns last season.

10. Nov. 4 Pullman, WA

Opposing teams dread facing the combination of punishing defense and bruising offense that the Cardinal showcase each season. Stanford promises to take a step forward offensively after some struggles last season – which included a 42-16 loss to the Cougars. Bryce Love is a capable backfield replacement for Christian McCaffrey. Love ran for 783 yards and averaged 7.1 yards per carry a year ago. Stanford also returns four starters along the offensive line.

11. Nov. 11 Salt Lake City, UT

The Utes can be counted on to feature a relentless defense every season. Utah's offense may finally catch up under new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor. If Troy Williams can become more consistent at quarterback, he has the tools to be an elite passer. Williams threw for 2,757 yards and 15 touchdowns a season ago, while completing 53 percent of his passes. The Utes will need to fill holes in the secondary, along the line and in the backfield. Zack Moss and Armand Shyne split time at running back last season before Joe Williams returned from a four-game retirement. Both figure to be the frontrunners to replace Williams in 2017.

13. Nov. 25 Seattle, WA

Getting wins in the Apple Cup hasn't been easy for the Cougars. The Huskies have won four straight and seven of eight in the rivalry series. Washington will be equally tough to deal with again this season. The Huskies featured the top defense in the Pac-12 last season, allowing just 17.7 points and 316.9 yards per game. Washington also will be in good shape offensively with Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin back for another year. Browning threw for 3,430 yards and 43 touchdowns with just nine interceptions in 2016 while Gaskin churned out 1,373 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.

 

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - 00:16

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