Washington State gets a 3 p.m. kickoff for its Oct. 10 game against Oregon — now unranked Oregon — in Eugene.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Cal awaits as the Cougars come off their bye week to dive right into Pac-12 play this weekend. And oh boy, what a radically different Pac-12 this is.
Oregon’s defeat to Utah on Saturday is being hailed as the end of an era — Stewart Mandel likens it to the dynastic shift the Pac-12 saw in 2009, when Pete Carroll’s USC Trojans were shoved aside to make room for the rising Ducks.
Unfortunately for Washington State, it’s nowhere close to being a Pac-12 contender quite yet.
Here’s a look at where the Cougs stand in the national rankings after the first quarter of the season:
-- Total offense: 41st (449.3 yards per game)
-- Rushing offense: 124th (86.7 yards per game)
-- Passing offense: 9th (362.7 yards per game)
-- Scoring offense: 80th (28.3 points per game)
-- Total defense: 61st (368.3 yards per game)
-- Rushing defense: 85th (181.3 yards per game)
-- Passing yards allowed: 38th (187.0 yards per game)
-- Scoring defense: 68th (tie) (24.0 points per game)
-- Turnover Margin: 41st
-- Third down conversion percentage: 113th (32.6 percent)
-- Fourth down conversion percentage: 38th (64.3 percent)
-- Third down conversion percentage defense: 111th (47.4 percent)
-- Fourth down conversion percentage defense: 104th (tied) (66.7 percent)
-- Red zone offense: 75th (81.8 percent)
-- Red zone defense: 99th (88.9 percent)
Main takeaways from that data:
▪ Alex Grinch has made a difference with WSU’s defense, especially in the passing game. Through the first three games of 2014, WSU gave up an average of 220 passing yards per game. But the Cougs still seem to struggle when defending the run. As we saw in the first half against Wyoming, sealing the edge presented some problems. Cal probably won’t be the team that really stresses WSU’s defense against the run, but Arizona, Stanford and UCLA await down the road.
▪ Offensively, the thing that’s killing WSU is that sad third down conversion percentage. The Cougs haven’t been efficient with third down conversions. That needs to improve. CougCenter.com’s Brian Anderson phrased it best in this analysis of WSU’s play to date: “...An offense that wants to dink and dunk its way down the field, but can convert on third down less than a third of the time, shouldn’t expect to get far.” That encapsulates all you need to know about what ails the Cougs’ offense at the moment.
▪ Ol’ Crimson’s record of 166-straight appearances on ESPN’s College GameDay was extended to 167 this weekend. But not without some 11th hour heroics from the Cougar Athletic Fund and ESPN, which scrambled to get a replica of Ol’ Crimson to Arizona after word got out that this season’s flag was lost in transit.
▪ Here’s what Cal coach Sonny Dykes said about WSU:
“I think we’re going against one of the elite passing offenses in college football. That’s always going to be the case when you’re facing Washington State. They know how to throw the ball, and they’re good at throwing it. They’re going to work really hard to throw it. I think it’ll be a good challenge for us. It’ll be a different challenge from what we’ve faced the last several weeks, but it’ll be a huge challenge. We’re going to have to play good football. We’re going to have to create some turnovers, and we’re going to need to make sure we’re in the right place at the right time. You know, pressure the quarterback and all those things that have led to us having some success. It just gets magnified when you throw the ball against a team that throws the ball as well as they do. You have to really be good at it and be good at what you do. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”