Pac-12: Washington State Cougars
And this comes off a year when no one was really talking about them, even though they were knee-deep in the Pac-12 title chase and alive in the College Football Playoff hunt until late November.
The early loss to USC took the Cougars off the radar and realistically killed the CFP chances, but the offense was great, the defense was underappreciated, and the team just kept on winning close games.
The Cougars slipped by Utah – when the Utes had all the parts in place. They slugged by Cal, fought through a shootout with Stanford, and rolled by Oregon, all to see it derailed in the snowy loss to Washington to miss out on a Pac-12 Championship appearance.
This season, the Pac-12 chatter is all about how loaded Oregon is, or how Washington is going to reload in a hurry, or about how the entire Pac-12 South should be a whole lot better and sharper.
Don’t sleep on Wazzu again.
The Cougars have to hope for Eastern Washington transfer Gage Gubrud to be another Gardner Minshew, but Mike Leach always gets production out of his quarterbacks no matter what.
The receiving corps is going to be special, the offensive line will once again be fantastic in pass protection, and most of the top tacklers are back on D.
There aren’t any Power Five dates in the non-conference slate, but going to Houston will be scary enough.
There’s no USC to deal with from the South, but the Cougars have to go to Utah, Arizona State, Oregon, Cal and Washington … uh oh.
The schedule is too tough, it’ll be too hard to get through the North, and …
The Cougars are about to make a whole lot of noise.