Mike Leach coaches his first game at Washington State, at Brigham Young on Thursday night. BYU is a 12 1/2-point favorite.
Time: 7:15 p.m. (PDT) at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
TV: ESPN. Radio: 710 ESPN.
The line: BYU by 12 ½ points.
The setup: After a two-year hiatus from coaching, WSU’s Mike Leach returns to the sideline with a pass-heavy offense against a BYU team expected to be one of the best in coach Bronco Mendenhall’s eight seasons.
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Key matchup: WSU offensive line vs. BYU defensive linemen Romney Fuga and Eathyn Manumaleuna and linebacker Kyle Van Noy — BYU is touting all three as honors candidates. If WSU can’t block them with consistency, it has little shot.
What to expect: WSU will come out slinging, early and often, and has the weapons to do it if it can protect QB Jeff Tuel. BYU ran for 160 yards per game in 2011 and isn’t afraid to turn it into a physical game, which could also keep the visitors’ offense on the sideline.
Notes: WSU is 1-2 in the series, the win coming in the 1989 debut of Mike Price, 46-41, in Provo. … The two have combined for 247 points in the three games, the losing total never lower than 36. … BYU went 10-3 last year, WSU 4-8. … Leach is a BYU grad, class of 1983, and it’s the first time he’s faced his alma mater. … WSU’s last season-opening win on the road was at New Mexico in 2004, the season that began a decline it has yet to pull out of. … Mendenhall was on the opposite sideline as defensive coordinator at New Mexico when Leach won his debut at Texas Tech in 2000, 24-3.
Upset brewing? Given WSU’s skill, it’s a possibility. But the crimson Cougars figure to be too inexperienced and sketchy defensively.
Injuries: WSU — OT Rico Forbes (knee), DL Robert Barber (knee), out; DE Xavier Cooper (leg), questionable. BYU — K Justin Sorenson (back), questionable; TE Devin Mahina (broken hand), doubtful; Ian Dulan (back), out.
Prediction: BYU 44, WSU 27.