Leach Era Begins With Washington State At BYU

By: Michael Robinson | Monday, August 27, 2012

The redemption of Washington State coach Mike Leach begins on Thursday when his team invades BYU. Both squads are nicknamed the Cougars in this Pac-12 vs. Independent showdown.

ESPN will have the kickoff at 10:15 p.m. (ET) after No. 9 South Carolina at Vanderbilt as college football begins another glorious season on Thursday night.

The Don Best odds screen has Washington State as 13½-point road ‘dogs with a total of 62. Only the latter has had much movement after opening at 58½

The presence of Leach certainly has something to do with the total moving upward. He’s known for his wide open, spread passing attack that finished second in passing yards (386.8 YPG) his last season at Texas Tech (2009).

Leach spent 10 years at Texas Tech overall and amassed an 84-43 straight-up record. He was fired after being accused of mistreating a player (Adam James) with a concussion. He seems re-energized to coach and the fan base is certainly excited to have him.

The big question about Leach is not whether he will get this offense clicking, but how soon? Senior quarterback Jeff Tuel will almost definitely start on Thursday after missing most of last year with collarbone and calf injuries. He threw for 2,780 yards in 2010, completing 59.8 percent of his passes and 18 TDS vs. 12 picks.

Tuel’s big target is star receiver Marquess Wilson, 82 receptions, 1,388 receiving yards last year. The defense could have a big adjustment under new coordinator Mike Breske, who switched to the 3-4. That’s another reason why a lot of points could come in the opener.

Washington State finished 4-8 SU (7-5 against the spread) and has a good chance to improve to .500 as the Leach era begins.

BYU went 10-3 SU last season (9-4 ATS) under coach Bronco Mendenhall, now in his seventh year at the helm. The team covered the last seven contests, with the offense scoring 38.7 PPG and the ‘over’ going 5-2.

Quarterback Riley Nelson is back for his senior season after starting seven games last year (team 6-1). He’s not big at 6-foot-1 and 199 pounds, but had 19 TDs versus just seven INTs along with a very good 152.9 QB rating (17th nationally).

Junior receiver Cody Hoffman had 943 receiving yards and 10 TDs in this West Coast passing system. Michael Alisa should be the featured back after rushing for 453 yards in his last seven games before missing the bowl win (24-21) over Tulsa. Nelson also showed off very good scrambling ability with 392 rushing yards.

The defense finished 13th in the country last year in total yards allowed (313.4 YPG). Some of that was due to a pretty easy schedule, but Mendenhall believes this stop unit could be even better.

BYU has some injuries to mention with receiver Ross Apo (shoulder) probable. Guard Brock Stringham (ankle) is questionable as is kicker Justin Sorensen (back).

These teams last met in 1989 and 1990, splitting the pair. They were both high-scoring affairs with an average of 86.5 points scored.

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