Posted on November 26, 2020
Cougar football has decided to take a break for two weeks and, frankly, it sucks.
But I choose to be an optimist, which means that I will ignore the unfortunate series of events that is happening right now, and will instead look to the future. I will choose to look beyond the COVID-19 cancellations and focus on the positives.
Maybe more so than any year before, the rest of this season is uncertain. It’s impossible to predict any season, which is especially true in 2020, but I don’t really care, so I’m going to do it anyway.
Will I be wrong? Most likely. But that isn’t enough to stop me. I am trying to cope with the biggest game of the Cougar football season being cancelled. This is my way of dealing with it.
Here are five things that definitely, certainly, undoubtably, WILL happen for WSU the rest of the season.
1. The Cougars will upset the Trojans in Week 5
Call me a fool, but I believe in the narrative aspect of sports. I think sometimes, the play on the field plays out like it would if it was written in a story.
That is why WSU will stun USC on Friday, December 4th in Los Angeles.
The Cougars will be playing their first game in three weeks. Freshman quarterback Jayden de Laura will be coming off a positive COVID-19 test and subsequent quarantine. USC will be coming off a win over Colorado that fans think will secure them the Pac-12 South.
Everything just lines up perfectly. Try to tell me this doesn’t sound like the plot of some movie about an underdog football team playing in the middle of a global pandemic.
I am not only making this prediction because of the narratives. I have some legitimate football reasons for this as well.
The Trojans are undefeated, but they have not looked unbeatable in their three wins. Their weaknesses have been on display and their holes have been exposed, and it will be even more evident after a close game against the Buffaloes.
WSU was looking like a solid team, going 1-1 and staying competitive for most of the game against Oregon.
This will be the game that the Cougars make a statement. They have beat a USC team with bigger aspirations before, they can do it again. They will do it again, count on it.
2. Ayden Hector will take over as the defensive superstar
This may only be a prediction if you don’t think he hasn’t done this already.
Hector has already turned heads in the Conference with his three-turnover performance against the Ducks. And there is more where that came from.
I am not saying he will be causing multiple turnovers a game, but he will have a huge impact on the defensive side of the ball.
There is a reason that he is the highest-rated prospect on this WSU team, despite being a walk-on. This is a player that had 21 offers coming out of high school, including ones from schools such as Alabama, Florida, Penn State, and Wisconsin.
When there is a guy this talented on the roster, he has to get on the field. WSU has found a spot for him, strong safety, mainly due to a lack of depth during game one against the Beavers, and he will take that and run with it for the rest of the season.
I don’t know if Hector’s production will come in the form of interceptions, fumbles, big tackle numbers, or even defensive touchdowns. What I do know is that he is going to be a big name on this defense for years to come, starting now.
3. Jayden de Laura will still win Offensive Freshman of the Year
This should not even sound crazy because the award goes to the best freshman offensive player, and there is no doubt that is de Laura.
His case will be hurt due to the loss of two games, but the way the freshman will end the season will secure him the honor.
He has yet to have the big game that solidifies him as a star. There is no fourth-quarter comeback, five-touchdown performance, or monumental victory to his name. So far.
His big game was going to come against Stanford. He would have been able to slice up the Cardinal defense for at least four scores if the game were not called off.
Luckily, he still has some opportunities left to prove himself and snatch that award from whatever competitors emerge.
There are three games left on the Cougars’ schedule. The aforementioned game against USC provides some national spotlight for de Laura to shine in. A win in that game would likely lock up the award.
Even if the team success doesn’t come for de Laura and the Cougars, he will rack up enough yards and touchdowns to prove himself as the best offensive freshman in the Conference.
4. Blake Mazza will remain perfect
It has only been 11 kicks, but Mazza has yet to miss the space between the uprights this season.
It is no surprise that the Lou Groza finalist has looked just as good this year. He made 55 of 57 extra points last season along with 20 of 21 field goals.
Even though fans don’t particularly like to see their kicker trot out on the field on fourth down, it helps to have a kicker like Mazza that can be trusted.
Not only has Mazza made every kick he has attempted this season, he has made them comfortably. He doesn’t give fans a heart attack with a bending kick that barely ekes past the upright. It seems like every time he kicks, the ball goes straight down the middle.
Hopefully, he is kicking far more extra points than field goals during the rest of the Cougar schedule. No matter how many points Mazza is trying to score with his leg, he is going to get them.
He is the best kicker in the Conference, but first-team All-Pac-12 won’t satisfy this player anymore. He got a taste of the highest honor at the position when he was a top three finisher for the Lou Groza award in 2019.
It probably will not be enough to earn him another trip to the College Football Awards Show, but in the three remaining games this season, Mazza won’t miss.
5. The Apple Cup is played in Week 7, and WSU wins
Enter the very hopeful thinking part of these predictions.
No I am not talking about the Cougars winning, they will do that, I’m talking about the fact that the game will even be played.
The Washington rivalry game this weekend has already been cancelled but the football gods will save the day by finally giving Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott a good idea, convincing him to ensure that this game is played.
There should be no holdups. The Huskies won’t be playing for the Pac-12 title so their weekend will be open. Instead of scheduling a meaningless cross-division game, WSU and UW will finally matchup in Week 7.
When that game is played, the Cougars will come out on top. Nick Rolovich is not Mike Leach. He will care about this game. He will do everything he can to win the game. And he will cement himself as a WSU folk hero by leading the Cougars to victory.
—Recent Cody Schoeler Stories—
- Schoeler: Cougar Football Lessons Learned in 2020
- Schoeler: Cougar Football Position Rankings
- Schoeler: Deon McIntosh Embodies the WSU ‘Next Man Up’ Mentality
- Schoeler: Washington State’s Jayden de Laura is making noise in the Pac-12
- Schoeler: Jayden de Laura’s first-game report card
- Schoeler: Who will be WSU Football’s Statistical Leaders in 2020?
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- Schoeler: Roadmap for a Pac-12 Team to Make the College Football Playoff
- Schoeler: Player Departures Proving Costly For Nick Rolovich’s Cougars
- Schoeler: Just Put WSU’s Max Borghi on the All-Pac-12 First Team Right Now
Schoeler: Cougar Football Lessons Learned in 2020Nick Rolovich’s first-year turnaround was compounded by injuries and the pandemic - January 7, 2021
Schoeler: Cougar Football Position RankingsEvaluating this team is tough because there have been so many ups and downs - December 11, 2020
Schoeler: Deon McIntosh Embodies the WSU ‘Next Man Up’ MentalityThe redshirt senior has done a stellar job of replacing the injured Max Borghi at running back - December 4, 2020