Washington State at Colorado State, Saturday at 7 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
Line: Washington State by 10 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Series record: Tied at 1-1.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
This may very well be a prelude to a conference rivalry, should the Mountain West and the remaining Pac-12 teams decide to one day align. The Cougars were one of the teams left scrambling after the mass exodus from the Pac-12 to other conferences. Washington State beat Colorado State 38-7 last season at home. The only other matchup featuring the two schools was in the 2013 New Mexico Bowl when the Rams won 48-45 behind Kapri Bibbs’ 169-yard, three-touchdown performance. The Cougars are 5-1 since 2000 when playing on football fields over 5,000 feet in elevation.
Protecting Washington State quarterback Cam Ward remains the top mission. Ward was sacked 46 times in 2022, the most in the league and second-most in the country. The only quarterback sacked more was Colorado State’s Clay Millen (53 times). Ward threw for 3,231 yards and 23 touchdowns last season. The Rams have a revamped offensive line to protect Millen that features four transfers, along with Jacob Gardner moving back to center.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Washington State: Edge rusher Ron Stone Jr. has 20 1/2 tackles for loss and 11 sacks over his career. He’s a two-time All-Pac-12 selection. He’s quite a force alongside Brennan Jackson, who’s on the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list.
Colorado State: Tailbacks Kobe Johnson and Avery Morrow. Johnson played four seasons at North Dakota State, where he rushed for 2,563 yards and 18 touchdowns. Morrow led the Rams in rushing last season with 866 yards.
FACTS & FIGURES
The Cougars were 7-6 last season, losing to Fresno State in the LA Bowl. ... There will be new voices calling the offense and defense for the Cougars. Overseeing the offense will be Ben Arbuckle, who arrived from Western Kentucky. Running the defense is Jeff Schmedding, who spent the last two seasons at Auburn. ... The Cougars boast three players from Colorado — Brandon Hills, Chau Smith-Wade and Tai Fa’avae. ... The Cougars are 12-7 against Mountain West teams since 2000. ... Colorado State went 3-9 record in coach Jay Norvell’s first season in charge after arriving from Nevada. ... In Norvell’s first season for the Wolf Pack, he also went 3-9. In his second, the team went 8-5. ... Rams defensive back Mychai Williams is the brother of Washington State receiver Kyle Williams.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll