Can the Cougars finally beat Arizona State on the road?
In some ways I understand why Washington State is favored by seven points over Arizona State Saturday night in Tempe. The Cougars have the better team, and the Sun Devils’ quarterback, Manny Wilkins, is banged up. Plus WSU’s passing offense is second in the conference, and ASU’s passing defense is last.
But I’m as concerned about this game more than any in the next few weeks. If the Cougars can get past the Sun Devils, they enter a favorable stretch at Oregon State and home against Arizona and Cal. They very well could be 8-2 when they head to Colorado if they can get beat ASU.
But that’s a big “if.” A bold-faced “if.” Some teams you match up well with, and others, not so much. There’s no plausible explanation for it. When ASU plays in Pullman, it’s not a big deal. But when the Cougars play in Tempe, it is. Throughout the years, the Cougs have had problems winning at Arizona State. They’ve lost in their last six visits to Sun Devil Stadium by an average of 30.5 points. In a three-game stretch between 2008 and 2012, WSU lost by a combined score of 119-7.
I know this is a different team, a different year and all of that. The kids on this year’s Cougars team don’t know about any of the historical struggles by their predecessors at Arizona State. But I’m at a point, having seen it all too often, where I almost expect things to go wrong there. I remember during our Rose Bowl year in 1997, we had a fantastic team but we still lost at ASU. I think we trailed 23-0, came back to take a 24-23 lead but ended up losing anyway.
And here’s something else: the Sun Devils looked terrible on the road against USC and Colorado, but they’re 5-0 at home, beating Texas Tech, Cal and UCLA along the way.
No one likes Todd Graham, but the ASU coach appears to always have his players ready for home games. As bad as they are on the road, as bad as they appear to be overall, the Sun Devils are a much better team in Tempe.
I’m going to hope the trends stop here, but I’m not counting on it to happen.
Line: Cougars by 7
Prediction: Arizona State 30, Washington State 28
The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com and KitsapSun.com. You can reach Jim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.