College football is upon us in the Pacific Northwest.
The Pac-12 season kicks off its coronavirus pandemic-delayed 2020 season this Saturday, beginning an abbreviated seven-game schedule that’s starting more than two months later than originally planned, as well as seven weeks later than when some conferences opened play.
So who reigns supreme in the State of Washington?
The Washington Huskies and Washington State Cougars are both undergoing transitions this season, and the pandemic makes it even more difficult to get a read on how good these teams may be.
Neither team had a 2019 to remember. Washington was expected to battle it out with Oregon for the Pac-12 North title, while Washington State was considered a dark-horse candidate to pass both of them. Instead, Washington was 4-5 in conference play and 8-5 overall, while Washington State was 3-6 and 6-7. Both teams went to bowl games, but neither met expectations.
Both teams are under new management after their high-profile head coaches unexpectedly departed. Washington is now being led by Jimmy Lake, the Huskies’ former defensive coordinator who inherited the head job after Chris Petersen stepped aside for personal reasons. Washington State hired Nick Rolovich away from Hawaii after Mike Leach bolted for the SEC to take over at Mississippi State.
Both teams also lost their starting quarterbacks — Washington’s Jacob Eason, the pride of Lake Stevens, opted for the NFL draft, while Washington State’s Anthony Gordon graduated — without having a clear predecessor waiting in the wings, and five days before the season begins neither coach had announced his starter. Reports out of Washington State say freshman Jayden de Laura will be the starter ahead of redshirt sophomore Cammon Cooper and redshirt freshman Gunner Cruz. Washington is still deciding between Sacramento State grad transfer Kevin Thomson, redshirt sophomore Jacob Sirmon and redshirt freshman Dylan Morris.
One thing Washington retains is talent on defense, despite defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike and linebacker Joe Tryon choosing to sit out the season to prepare for the NFL draft. This is particularly true about the secondary — a group that includes Archbishop Murphy High School graduate Kyler Gordon — which remains perhaps the best in the Pac-12.
Washington State is switching from Leach’s pass-happy air-raid offense to Rolovich’s more-balanced run-and-shoot. That should make standout running back Max Borghi — as well as the right side of the offensive line consisting of Archbishop Murphy grad Abraham Lucas and Cascade grad Josh Watson — happier.
Washington was picked to finish third in the North in the preseason media poll, while Washington State was picked to finish sixth.
The Huskies open the season Saturday at California, while the Cougars play Saturday at Oregon State. Washington’s crossover game is a home contest against Arizona, picked to finish last in the South, while WSU’s crossover game is at USC, picked to finish first in the South.
So who do you think finishes with a better record, the Huskies or Cougars? Vote here: