BOULDER, Colo. - As the Pac-12’s only remaining one-loss team, Washington State sits eighth in the latest College Football Playoff rankings and still holds an outside shot of finishing in the Final Four. The Cougars need to win out, and that quest continues Saturday afternoon in Boulder as they visit reeling Colorado.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Washington State -6
Washington State’s latest win was one of its tightest yet as Gardner Minshew connected with Easop Winston Jr., on a 10-yard scoring pass with 32 seconds remaining to give the Cougars a tougher-than-expected 19-13 victory over visiting California last Saturday night. Coach Mike Leach’s squad has won five straight since a 39-36 loss at USC on Sept. 21, and three of those victories have come by six points or fewer. “It came down clear to the end, and I was proud of our guys for sticking in there and finding a way to win when it’s tough,” Leach said Saturday in his post-game news conference. “This time of year especially, if you play a schedule like we do where everybody’s good, there’s none of these ‘breather teams’ that exist in some other conferences. We don’t have that here. It’s hard to line up and do it over and over when folks are gunning for you.” The Buffaloes, meanwhile, are yearning to return to the win column and become bowl-eligible after four consecutive losses have nearly negated a 5-0 start.
ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12)
Minshew leads the FBS in passing yards (390.8 per game) and completions (36.6) and has thrown for at least 300 yards in nine straight outings after completing 35-of-51 attempts for 334 yards and the winning TD vs. Cal on a cold and rainy night in Pullman. Minshew has a talented trio of wideouts to throw to in Winston, Dezmon Patmon and Davontavean Martin, and they’ve combined for 138 catches, 1,655 yards and 17 TDs while versatile tailback James Williams has caught a team-high 58 passes for 463 yards and three scores while rushing for 377 yards and eight TDs. Led by senior linebacker Peyton Pelluer (7.9 tackles per game), the Cougars’ defense is far from a pushover, ranking sixth in the Pac-12 in points allowed (23.8 per game) and fourth in total defense (327.1 yards).
ABOUT COLORADO (5-4, 2-4)
The Buffaloes have plummeted from the national polls and have fallen from the top to the bottom of the South Division during their four-game slide which has included losses to USC (31-20), Washington (27-13), Oregon State (41-34) and Arizona (42-34). Standout wide receiver Laviska Shenault, who was mentioned as a dark-horse Heisman Trophy contender after catching an FBS-best 60 passes and scoring 11 TDs in the Buffs’ first six games, has missed the last three contests with a toe injury and enters a fourth straight week with his status listed as “day-to-day.” Quarterback Steven Montez trails only Minshew in the conference with his total-offense average of 288.7 yards and has thrown for at least 300 yards and multiple TDs in five games this season, but the Colorado defense appears to be wearing down after surrendering a total of 83 points and 1,025 total yards over the last two outings.
1. Washington State has won three of the five meetings since Colorado joined the Pac-12 in 2011, including a 28-0 shutout last season in Pullman.
2. The Cougars are 8-1 for the first time since 2002 and have now won eight or more games in a program-best four straight seasons.
3. Colorado sophomore DE Mustafa Johnson leads the Pac-12 with 6.5 sacks and ranks fourth with 12 tackles for loss.
PREDICTION: Washington State 38, Colorado 31
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