Picking the scores of every game before a season starts is always going to be a near-impossible task, but it’s even tougher this season when it comes to Washington State, because there is so little to glean from last year’s shortened and interrupted first season for coach Nick Rolovich at WSU.

But here goes. Just don’t bet the house on these predictions:

Sept. 4 | UTAH STATE | Martin Stadium

Outlook: The Aggies have a new coach — Blake Anderson from Arkansas State — after an atypical 1-5 season for Utah State in 2020 in which coach Gary Andersen was fired after an 0-3 start. The Aggies should be better, but this is a game WSU really should — and needs to — win.

Prediction: Cougars 42, Aggies 27

Sept. 11 | PORTLAND STATE | Martin Stadium

Outlook: The Cougars have not played Portland State since 2016, when the Vikings shocked WSU at Martin Stadium, 24-17. That history should keep the Cougars from looking past Portland State with a matchup against USC the following week.

Prediction: Cougars 51, Vikings 14

Sept. 18 | USC | Martin Stadium

Outlook: The Trojans were picked to win the Pac-12 South by the media and the Cougars were picked to finish last in the Pac-12 North. The last time the two teams met at Pullman, in 2017, WSU knocked off the fifth-ranked Trojans, 30-27. The Cougars should be 2-0 and brimming with confidence.

Prediction: Cougars 31, Trojans 28

Sept. 25 | at Utah | Salt Lake City

Outlook: Cougars have been beaten soundly at Utah the last two seasons. The Utes have a new quarterback in Charlie Brewer, but he was a four-year starter at Baylor and should do just fine in the Pac-12. Utah’s defense is almost always among the best in the Pac-12.

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Prediction: Utes 34, Cougars 21

Oct. 2 | at California | Berkeley

Outlook: The Golden Bears seem to be trending in the right direction under coach Justin Wilcox, despite last year’s 1-3 record (the lone win came in their finale against conference champion Oregon). Chase Garbers is a talented quarterback for Cal and the defense is very stingy.

Prediction: Golden Bears 31, Cougars 20

Oct. 9 | OREGON STATE | Martin Stadium

Outlook: WSU’s lone win in four games last season came against the Beavers. Oregon State seems to be gradually improving under coach Jonathan Smith, but the Cougars will relish being back at Martin Stadium. Cougars should make it a happy homecoming game for the WSU alums.

Prediction: Cougars 42, Beavers 27

Oct. 16 | STANFORD | Martin Stadium

Outlook: The Cardinal was 4-2 last season after suffering through a 4-8 season in 2019, its first losing season since 2008. Washington State has won its past four games against Stanford (2016-19). The home-field advantage might be the difference in a competitive matchup.

Prediction: Cougars 31, Cardinal 28

Oct. 23 | BRIGHAM YOUNG | Martin Stadium

Outlook: BYU was 11-1 last season but lost quarterback Zach Wilson, who was the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft by the New York Jets. Hard to predict how good BYU — also the Cougars — will be without him, but it’s too good of a program to expect a big dropoff.

Prediction: Washington State 24, Brigham Young 23

Oct. 30 | at Arizona State | Tempe

Outlook: Expecting a big season from Sun Devils junior quarterback Jayden Daniels. ASU coach Herm Edwards seems to have his team going in the right direction and the Sun Devils begin the season ranked No. 25 in the country.

Prediction: Sun Devils 38, Cougars 31

Nov. 13 | at Oregon | Eugene

Outlook: Washington State had good success against Oregon under coach Mike Leach, winning four straight games from 2015-2018, including twice in Eugene. WSU dominated most of the first half last year before losing 43-29 at home to Oregon. Expect WSU to be competitive, but there is a reason the Ducks are favored to win the Pac-12 North.

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Prediction: Ducks 35, Cougars 31

Nov. 19 | ARIZONA | Martin Stadium

Outlook: The Wildcats have a new coach, Jedd Fisch, after Kevin Sumlin’s three-year stint went from bad to worse. A 70-7 loss to Arizona State was the lowlight of an 0-5 season last year for Arizona. The Wildcats are expected to struggle again this season.

Prediction: Cougars 49, Wildcats 14

Nov. 26| at Washington | Seattle

Outlook: Is this the year the Cougars beat the Huskies, or are at least competitive? UW has won the past seven Apple Cups, all by at least 10 points and five of them by at least 18 points. WSU coach Nick Rolovich gets his first chance to win the Apple Cup after last year’s game was canceled.

Prediction: Huskies 31, Cougars 27

It’s the return of fans (finally!) and key players as optimism surrounds the Huskies and Cougars. Get ready for the return of college football with our 10-page special section coming Friday in print and all week online.


College football preview 2021

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