After three straight weeks of ranked teams, the Washington State Cougars get a break, if you will, this weekend against the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Cougars are coming off a surprisingly competitive 38-28 game against the Stanford Cardinals in Palo Alto. This weekend, they travel to Tempe with high hopes of pulling out a win against the Sun Devils.
With weeks of steady improvement, this weekend's matchup has some wondering if WSU will finally break through and defeat a Pac-10 opponent, ending a 14-game losing streak.
Arizona State couldn't be more ripe for the picking. Reeling from a blowout? Check. A team that folded its tents down the stretch the last two years in the face of adversity? Check. Decimated by injuries? Double check.
The Cougs are hungry. They know they can win. It's time for these guys to break through.
Is it possible? For the Cougs to have a shot, the defense has to show up and make plays. After being run over for most of the season, the Cougar defense has also improved, leaving Craig Powers to say WSU should shut down ASU.
So don't be surprised if Washington State comes out and plays a pretty good defensive game against ASU. The advanced numbers say this is as favorable a matchup on that side of the ball as there has been all year. If they are forcing more punts and making more plays come this Saturday, you'll be smart and know that this isn't anything new or unexpected. It was something this group had in them the whole time.
On the practice side of things, The Spokesman-Reviews Vince Grippi noted one big change on the defensive line yesterday. Junior College transfer Brandon Rankin found himself running with the second string, replaced by fellow transfer Steven Hoffart.
We've covered the main elements of practice, with the injury news, but one other interesting thing stood out. Defensive tackle Steven Hoffart, recovered from his bout of mono, was running with the No. 1 defensive line in the spot usually held by Brandon Rankin. That's the first time I've seen Hoffart that high on the depth chart this year
On the Arizona State side, after being forced to use third-string quarterback Samson Szakacsy last week, the Sun Devils have all their quarterbacks back and ready to go. Starter Steven Threet was knocked out of last weekend's game against the California Golden Bears with a concussion, but is optimistic he'll be ready to go this week (via The Arizona Daily Star's Jeff Metcalfe).
"I'm a lot better, significant improvement," Threet said. "I've talked to the doctors, and they've said I'll be good to go for Saturday (against Washington State)."
The Cougars take on the Sun Devils in Tempe this Saturday at 4 p.m.