College football is officially back and it comes in the form of Washington State versus BYU.
The Cougars look to show off their new spread attack under head coach Mike Leach while the, um, "other" Cougars intend to improve on last year's impressive 10-3 campaign.
Yup, it will be a real cat fight
Anyways, let's take a closer look at this intriguing Thursday night kickoff to the season.
When: Thursday, August 30 at 10:15 p.m. ET
Where: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah
Listen: Those in Washington can find your radio broadcast here. BYU fans can tune in to Sirius XM 143, KSL 1160 AM or 102.7 FM.
Live Streaming: WatchESPN
Betting Line: BYU (-13), according to Bet 365
Washington State Injuries (via CBSSports)
Xavier Cooper, DL, Unspecified, Questionable
Rico Forbes, OL, Knee, Out
Toni Pole, DL, Unspecified, Questionable
BYU Injuries (via USA Today)
Ross Apo, WR, Shoulder, Probable
Brock Stringham, OL, Ankle, Questionable
Kevan Bills, LB, Knee, Out
Justin Sorensen, K, Back, Out
What's At Stake?
A start in the right direction.
Both of these squads have very high expectations for the season, albeit for very different reasons. A 1-0 start to the season would be a good first step.
WSU has been mediocre—and that's saying it kindly—for the past seven years, and its fans are desperate for a return to .500 football. That's never been a realistic possibility entering each of the past few seasons, but Mike Leach has at least inspired hope.
He'll hope to continue that hope on Thursday against his former school.
Brigham Young, meanwhile, has been teetering on the edge of being elite. Five of the Cougars' last six seasons have ended with double-digit victories, but they've never gotten the respect of, say, a Boise State. The Las Vegas Bowl has become their unfortunate home.
A loss against Washington State to end their five-game, season-opening winning streak would seriously hinder those aspirations.
Washington State Player to Watch: Marquess Wilson, WR
Does Wilson spell his first name right? Certainly not. Is he the most talented wide receiver in the country, or even the Pac-12? Probably not, but he's dangerously close. Will he put up Heisman-like numbers in 2012?
Wilson doesn't necessarily have blazing speed, but he has deceptive quickness, downright amazing hands, precise route running and legitimate jumping ability. Despite a whole bunch of revolving pieces at the WSU quarterback position, the junior has been able to shatter plenty of school records.
In 2011, with three different QBs running the show, Wilson pulled in 82 catches for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns. What he might do in Mike Leach's throw-throw-throw-and-throw-some-more offense with a healthy Jeff Tuel sort of scares me to think about.
BYU Player to Watch: Riley Nelson, QB
The best offensive player on this team is probably wide receiver Cody Hoffman, but I'm more intrigued to watch the guy who will be throwing him the ball.
Senior Riley Nelson completed 57.4 percent of his 202 throws last year for 1,717 yards, 19 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. This season, he no longer has to share time with Jake Heaps, who equally threw 252 times in 2011, but has since transferred to Kansas.
WSU's defense isn't quite adept at slowing passing attacks down. With complete control of the offense, Nelson should have a big day.
Key Matchup: Washington's Air Attack vs. BYU's Secondary
It's the obvious key. BYU should be able to score against WSU with relative ease, but Washington State's offense, which is easily the most dangerous weapon in this game, has the firepower to keep up.
So it comes down to BYU's defense.
In 2011, the Cougars of Utah held teams to just 6.4 yards per pass and 198.4 passing yards per game, both top 20 in the nation. Of course, they also never faced a talented air attack like this one, which features plenty more talent than just Tuel and Wilson, and they've lost two starting corners.
If BYU fails to pressure Tuel (they were 90th in sack percentage last year), the secondary is going to have to save the day with some sticky coverage. Otherwise, whoever has the ball last might just win.
The Cougars are going to win.
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This is going to be one of those "first one to 35 wins" games. WSU has the better offense, but I have a feeling BYU's defense, energized by the home crowd, can slow them down just enough. If this was in Pullman, it would be a different story.
BYU Cougars win, 35-31.