The Washington State Cougars are trying to make their third straight bowl game. The Cougars have been irrelevant for the majority of this century, so making three straight bowl games would be an impressive feat. Mike Leach has turned around this program with quarterback Luke Falk leading the way. But there’s a chance that they could disappoint in 2017 and win less than six games. Here are five potential reasons why the Cougars could miss a bowl berth this season.
Washington State Cougars Miss A Bowl Berth If…
1. Key injuries strike
Every good team needs to avoid bad injury luck. If the Cougars lose quarterback Luke Falk to an injury, they’ll have a hard time winning six games. There isn’t another player on the team that’ll have that drastic of an impact if injured, but a plethora of key injuries could derail their season. The Cougars defense isn’t nearly as talented as their offense, so losing a couple of starters could be a huge blow to their season. If they can avoid major injuries to key players, the Cougars should make a bowl game again this season.
2. Receivers don’t step up
The Cougars lost two of their most productive wide receivers in program history. Gabe Marks broke numerous school and Pac-12 records during his time in Pullman, but he’s now trying to make it in the NFL. River Cracraft missed the end of the 2016 season after tearing his ACL. The offense struggled after his injury. Now that both are gone this season, the remaining receivers will need to step up. Tavares Martin Jr. will be the team’s top receiver. Sophomore Isaiah Johnson-Mack will get a chance to shine as the team’s second receiver. Senior Robert Lewis will be the team’s best slot receiver. If these three receivers struggle in 2017, the Cougars offense could decline and cause Washington State to not make a bowl game.
3. Defense struggles
The Cougars defense has improved each year under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. The defense is predicated on forcing negative plays and turnovers. They often gave up a lot of yards, but their style of play gives opposing offenses underneath throws. It’s up to the pass rush to force negative plays or inaccurate throws that can be intercepted by the linebackers and defensive backs. If the pass rush struggles, the Cougars defense will be in for a long season. This could derail their chances of making a bowl game.
4. Falk takes a major step back
Luke Falk is the most important player on the Cougars. He’ll likely break numerous school and Pac-12 records this season. If he struggles or sustains another injury, the season could be wasted. Falk impressed as a freshman when he took over for the injured Connor Halliday. He completely took over the reigns as the starting quarterback his sophomore year and hasn’t looked back. He led the Cougars to two straight bowl games, which is a major step in the right direction for a Cougars program that has struggled during in recent years. The Cougars will not make a bowl game with a subpar year from Falk.
5. Cougars Coug it
This is what the Cougars are known for. They always Coug it! Any Wazzu fan has experienced the Cougars choking away leads, games, or even their entire season. This hasn’t been an issue during the last two seasons, but it’s hard to ignore Washington State’s entire football history. This Cougars team is extremely talented, and should make a bowl appearance if Falk stays healthy. But the Cougars don’t always do what they should do. Actually, they rarely do what they should do. Washington State could Coug it again this year and miss a bowl berth. That wouldn’t surprise any Wazzu fan.