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First look at the Washington State Cougars

A top offense faces a top defense

Washington State v Oregon Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

It’s finally Homecoming in Tucson and the Arizona Wildcats will host the No. 15 Washington State Cougars.

After winning their third consecutive conference game, Arizona will look to keep things going against a top-tier conference opponent.

Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m. Here’s a quick look at the Cougars:

A look at Washington State

2017 Record – 7-1 (4-1)

Key Games – Week two win versus Boise State (47-44 3OT), week five win versus USC (30-27), week six win at Oregon (33-10), week seven loss at Cal (37-3)

Key Offensive PlayersLuke Falk (QB), Jamal Morrow (RB), James Williams (RB), Tavares Martin Jr. (WR), Cole Madison (OT)

Key Defensive PlayersHercules Mata’afa (DT), Isaac Dotson (LB), Frankie Luvu (LB), Robert Taylor (FS)

Washington State is having a very impressive year thus far.

Senior quarterback Luke Falk has had a tremendous season to date with 2,483 passing yards and 22 touchdowns while completing 68.7 percent of his passes.

The Cougars have a highly talented backfield with Jamal Morrow, James Williams and Gerard Wicks. Combined, they account for 854 rushing yards and 637 receiving yards. Senior Jamal Morrow is listed as the starter but sophomore James Williams gets just as much playing time.

As one would expect from a Mike Leach offense, WSU possesses plenty of talent at the receiver position. Tavares Martin Jr. leads the group with 502 yards and seven touchdowns, but running back James Williams actually leads the team in receptions with 48.

UA’s defense can’t just focus on these two, however. WSU has 11 players who have recorded 10 or more receptions through their first eight games. This means the Leach air raid is simply going to look for the open man.

WSU’s offensive line was expected to be a strong suit of this season’s team given three returning All-Conference Honorable Mention starters. However, it’s been quite disappointing as it rank 128th (of 129) in the FBS for average sacks allowed per contest.

Defensively, the Cougars are very strong as they’ll enter this contest as the seventh-best team in college football in total defense. They are allowing an average of just 274 yards and 18.4 points per contest.

WSU’s run defense has been particularly strong as they have allowed an average of 120.1 yards per game. Players like defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa and linebackers Isaac Dotson and Frankie Luvu are responsible limiting the big plays.

The key matchup on Saturday will be Arizona’s fourth-ranked rushing attack (342.7 yards per game) versus WSU’s 22nd-ranked rushing defense.

Taking this a step further, the Wildcats’ offensive line has allowed less than one sack a game, doing a tremendous job allowing the backfield to pick up major yardage on the ground.

On the flip side, the Cougars are averaging more than three sacks per game. Arizona may be forced to abandon the rushing game if WSU can control the line of scrimmage.

If that becomes the case, this will be the game where Khalil Tate’s passing game is truly tested.