WSU Preview: Deion’s Colorado visits with bowl hopes on the line

Nov 16, 2023, 1:52 PM

WSU Cougars Jake Dickert...

WSU Cougars coach Jake Dickert looks on during a game at Oregon on Oct. 21, 2023. (Lydia Ely/Getty Images)

(Lydia Ely/Getty Images)


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Radio Coverage: 5:30 p.m. on 710 AM and Seattle Sports app
Series record: WSU leads 7-6
Click for Pac-12 college football standings

WSU, OSU working to keep Pac-12 open, align with Mountain West

What’s at stake?

It’s an elimination game for the postseason hopes of two struggling programs. The winner will keep alive their chances at reaching a bowl game entering the final week of the regular season, while the loser knows their season will end with rivalry week. Washington State is a shell of the program that started the season 4-0, now stuck in the rut of a six-game losing streak after falling at California last week, a second consecutive three-point loss. The Buffaloes, in the first-year under coach Deion Sanders, took No. 19 Arizona to the final play last week in Boulder before losing 34-31. The Buffs have been competitive – three of the last four losses have been by one score – but have lost six of seven after their 3-0 start.

Key matchup

Colorado QB Shedeur Sanders vs. Washington State’s defense. Sanders keeps putting up big numbers even during the Buffs’ struggles. Sanders has 26 touchdowns against only three interceptions this season, but the big issue for Colorado’s offense has been protecting its quarterback. The Buffs have surrendered 49 sacks, 129th out of 130 FBS schools. If given the time, Sanders should have chances to pick apart the Cougars secondary, which puts importance on rushers Brennan Jackson and Ron Stone Jr. to get Washington State’s pass rush going.

Players to watch

Colorado: WR/DB Travis Hunter. The two-way star for the Buffs is the first player since Champ Bailey in 1998 to have at least 40 receptions on offense and at least three interceptions on defense. Hunter had a season-high six tackles last week against Arizona on defense to go along with his five receptions for 74 yards.

WSU: RB Leo Pulalasi. The Cougars have struggled to establish any sort of running game this season but may have found something in Pulalasi last week against Cal. Pulalasi rushed for 66 yards on 11 carries and caught two passes out of the backfield. Colorado’s rush defense is 102nd in the country giving up 172.2 yards per game.

Facts & figures

First meeting between the teams since 2019, a 41-10 WSU win in Pullman. The Cougars have won the past three matchups. … Colorado finished winless in conference play at home for the first time since 2015. … A loss would end Washington State’s streak of bowl games. The Cougars have made a bowl in each of the past seven full seasons played. … Colorado has committed only seven turnovers all season, tied for sixth nationally. Its win over Colorado State is the only time the Buffs have committed multiple turnovers in a game.

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