Eastern Washington Eagles vs Washington State Cougars Pick
No. 6 (FCS) Eastern Washington Eagles (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS) at Washington State Cougars (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS)
College Football Week 4
When: Saturday, September 15, 8:00PM EST
Where: Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA
TV: Pac-12 Network
By: Dave Wilson, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Spread: EWAS +15.5/WA-S -15.5
The Washington State Cougars host their eastside instate rival Eastern Washington Eagles this Saturday evening in Pullman. The two schools are a little more than an hour apart from each other and have met a few times over the years—Eastern Washington may be from the lower BIG Sky Conference, but they are as good or better than any team the Cougars have faced this season. Both teams enter this contest undefeated in what should be the toughest game yet for each squad. The Big Sky Conference is in the lower tier FCS but make no mistake as the Eagles are ranked 6th in the country and have had some very successful outings against their upper division foe Washington State. Who will win bragging rights?
The Washington State Offense: WSU QB Gardner Minshew II turned down the backup job at Alabama to be the starter at Washington State this season and so far, it’s been a great move for him. Gardner is leading the country in pass completions at 36 per game, sixth in passing yards at 366.5, and fourth in total offense with 383.5 yards. The Cougs recently shutout San Jose State 31-0 where Minshew threw for 414 yards and 3 TDs but he had two INTs which kept San Jose State in the game for a while. Cougar WR Tay Martin grabbed two TD catches and slot receiver Travell Harris had 6 receptions for 83 yards. The Cougs offense has outscored their opponents 72-19 albeit versus lower level teams–that’s still impressive. The WSU O-line has yet to allow a sack on QB Minshew and for an offense that runs the air-raid it is reaping the benefits.
Eastern Washington Offense: EWU QB, Gage Gubrud leads the FCS with nine passing TDs and is third in total offense with 373.5. Gubrud went over 10,000 total yards of offense against NAU last week to put him fourth ranked at 10,188 yards for his career. EWU’s offense has outscored their opponents 89-39 and will look to continue this trend against WSU. Adding to Eastern Washington’s offensive attack are WR Nsimba Webster who pulled in two TD receptions from Gubrud and RB Sam McPherson who had 22 touches for 161 yards, one run of 94 yards. Certainly EWU’s offense can put up points but can they be as efficient against a stingy Washington State defense?
The Keys to this Matchup: How many times have we heard that defense wins championships? Without a doubt, great defenses usually prevail and will be one of the keys to this matchup. The WSU Cougar defensive has effectively put pressure on the QB in both of their early contests this season. The Coug’s defense showed blitz packages early and often versus San Jose State and outright smothered the Spartans the entire game. WSU held San Jose State to just 109 total yards—an all-time low for a Mike Leach team. EWU may be ranked 6th in the FCS nationwide but they enter Martin Stadium to face a Cougar team with both young and returning players who are explosive. Another key aspect in this game will be the QB matchup. EWU’s Gage Gubrud is one of 10 starters for the Eagles who beat the Cougars two years ago in an upset at Martin Stadium 45-42. Meanwhile, WSU graduate transfer QB Gardner Minshew II appears as poised as any gunslinger in Mike Leach’s system over the years—so far all he’s done is lead the nation in completions and seems to have the air-raid offense dialed-in. No secret here—the better QB play and defense will get the win in Pullman. This should be a sold-out game with a lot of bragging rights on the line! We like Washington State to avenge the 2016 loss to the Eagles. WSU takes care of business at home— WSU wins a high flying game in the Palousse. We like the Washington State Cougars to cover the points at home.
Wilson’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Cougars cover the spread. Luck to ya.