The Washington State Cougars were one of the most talked about teams in the Pac 12 heading into the 2012 season thanks to the arrival of new head coach Mike Leach. Things didn’t go quite as planned, however, and the Cougs limped to a 3-9 finish in year one under the Palouse Pirate. While Leach and company try to get things turned around in Pullman and make a return to WSU’s glory days of the early 2000’s, they will run into a major hurdle in 2013. Specifically, their schedule.
In a word, the Cougars 2013 slate is rough. They open the year with back-to-back road games against the Auburn Tigers and USC Trojans. While Auburn isn’t in great shape and could be open to an upset if the Cougars come out firing on all cylinders, it’ll be a tough trip into SEC country for a roster still trying to figure it out. And last year’s 3-9 team enjoyed the benefit of not having to play USC, a luxury they will not get to enjoy again in 2013 as they open up their Pac 12 schedule in the Coliseum.
After a rough start to their schedule, they get a slight reprieve with the rest of their non-conference schedule but get thrown right back into the Pac 12 fire. In addition to their trip to USC, the Cougars go on the road next season to face the Cal Bears (who are trending upward), Oregon Ducks (a lock for preseason top five), Arizona Wildcats and Washington Huskies (both strong top 25 programs on the rise).
That doesn’t even take into account the rest of the Pac 12 North they have to face with the Stanford Cardinal and Oregon State Beavers coming to Pullman. The only teams they avoid in conference play this year are the defending Pac 12 South champion UCLA Bruins, which is a plus, and the ailing Colorado Buffaloes, which would have been a probable win for them in 2013.
The Pac 12 is a rough conference from top to bottom, but WSU is getting thrown into the teeth of it this season. Tough road trips and a division with two BCS bowl game winners to try and compete with will make the turnaround in Pullman a slow one. If winning the North is out of the question for WSU next season, will they at least be able to keep games close?