After a bye week, Washington State hopes to get an edge from chilly weather when it hosts No. 25 Arizona State, which has won eight of the last nine in the series.
It is a storyline tired and recycled, though without fail, it emerges toward the end of October, when temperatures in Pullman dip into the 30s and fans reach for their peppermint schnapps and Busch Light.
When the Cougars (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12) get their hunk of national spotlight against Arizona State on a cold, clear Thursday night (lows in the mid-30s) forecasted for Martin Stadium (7:30 p.m., ESPN), it will no doubt be a topic of conversation: Will the Sun Devils (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12), whose Tempe home will have a high of 78 Thursday, be affected by weather?
If the past decade is any indicator, the answer is yes.
Since 2003, WSU is a ghastly 11-32 in conference home games at Martin Stadium. Meanwhile, the Cougars are a still-awful but slightly less pathetic 7-13 in conference home games at Martin Stadium in November or later, when the climate approaches Arctic conditions, and an almost inconceivably bad 4-19 in August, September and October.
WSU has to buck a major trend if they wish to pull a Halloween upset against the Sun Devils, first in the Pac-12 South and 25th in the AP poll.
What it means for the Cougars: A win would push WSU a single victory away from bowl eligibility with matchups remaining against Arizona, Utah and Washington, all of whom feature winning records but are outside the Top 25 in both polls. A loss doesn’t cripple a WSU team that most predicted would finish with between four and six wins, though it would make a bowl game a lot more unlikely.
What it means for the Sun Devils: Arizona State needs this win to stay alone atop the Pac-12 South and give it an outside shot to make a BCS bowl game, assuming No. 3 Oregon fools nobody and runs the table. A loss throws ASU back into the mediocre territory the program has gained a reputation for staying in during the last decade.
Key Matchup: WSU offensive line vs. ASU defensive line. The Cougars in the off-season took strides in shoring up the offensive line, and it’s paid dividends. A year after they gave up 4.75 sacks per game, they allow slightly less than two despite throwing the ball almost every play. However, their stiffest test comes Thursday against DT Will Sutton and an ASU defensive line that two weeks ago made UW quarterback Keith Price spend more time backpedaling than the Supreme Court.
Prediction: Sun Devils 45, Cougars 31. ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly (2,236 passing yards, 18 passing touchdowns, and seven interceptions) turns the ball over far less than WSU quarterback Connor Halliday (2,798 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and 17 interceptions). More disturbingly for WSU fans, Halliday’s propensity to let one mistake affect the following series, then the next, won’t bode well on a night where he sees consistent pressure.
SERIES: Dates to Oct. 1, 1960, when the Sun Devils defeated the Cougars 24-21 in Tempe, AZ. Washington State trails the all-time series 24-13-2 but claimed the last matchup in Pullman 37-27 in 2011 behind Connor Halliday’s 494-yard, four-touchdown performance after coming off the bench. The Sun Devils have won eight of the last nine meetings, including a 46-7 victory in Tempe last season.
WSU HEAD COACH Mike Leach (91-56 overall, 7-13 WSU): Hired Nov. 30, 2011 to replace Paul Wulff, who went 9-40 in four seasons, Leach’s 2012 Cougars led the Pac-12 in passing at 330.4 yards per game and finished the season by beating Washington in the Apple Cup. In 10 seasons at Texas Tech (2000-09), Leach earned 10 bowl bids. The Susanville, CA., native, who was raised in Cody, WY., recorded a school-record 84 victories. Leach’s offenses led the nation in passing six times and three times accumulated the most total yards. In 2009, the Red Raiders finished second in passing offense and fourth in total offense, both marks tops among BCS conference schools. Prior to Texas Tech, Leach spent one season as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma (1999). That year, the Sooners set six Big 12 and 17 school records.
WSU STATS / NOTES
COUGARS OFFENSIVE LEADERS
COUGARS DEFENSIVE LEADERS
|Tackles||Bucannon 73, Coen 49, Monroe 49|
|Sacks||Coen, Gauta, Monroe, Cooper 3|
|Interceptions||Bucannon 4, Hornton 4, Brown 2|
|Passes Defensed||Brown 5, Gauta 3, 5 tied with 2|
|Forced Fumbles||Bucannon 3, Cooper 2|
|Fumbles Recovered||Pole 2, Bucannon 2|
Pac-12 Standings / North
|Oregon||8-0||5-0||Nov. 7, at Stanford|
|Stanford||7-1||5-1||Nov. 7, vs. Oregon|
|Oregon State||6-2||4-1||Fri, vs. USC|
|Washington||5-3||2-3||Nov. 9 vs. Colorado|
|Washington St.||4-2||1-2||Thr, vs. Arizona St.|
|Cal||1-7||0-5||Sat, vs. Arizona|
Pac-12 Standings / South
|Arizona St.||5-2||3-1||Thr, at WSU|
|Arizona||5-2||2-2||Sat, at California|
|UCLA||5-2||2-2||Sat, vs. Colorado|
|USC||5-3||2-2||Fri, at Oregon St.|
|Utah||4-4||1-4||Nov. 9, vs. ASU|
|Colorado||3-4||4-4||Sat, at UCLA|
ARIZONA STATE NOTES: The Sun Devils defeated Sacramento State (55-0), Wisconsin (32-30), USC (62-41), Colorado (54-13) and Washington (53-24) and lost to Stanford (42-28) and Notre Dame (37-34) . . . The Arizona State roster includes four players with connections to the state of Washington: TE Alex Bykovskiy (Federal Way), DB Jordan Simone (Sammamish), P Dorn Vizzare (Tacoma) and LB Chris Young (Auburn) . . . Todd Graham is in his second year as head coach of the Sun Devils, who went 8-5 in his first year and won the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl . . . Graham began his head coaching career at Rice in 2006 and has also coached at Tulsa (2007-10) and Pittsburgh (2011). He is a graduate of East Central University.
Washington State 2013 Schedule/Results
|Date||Opponent||WSU Rnk||Opp Rnk||W/L||Score||Rec.|
|9/14/13||vs. So. Utah||—||—||W||48-10||2-1|