Over the last few weeks, Washington State has gone from a team dragging down perceptions of the Pac-12 to one of the most dangerous teams in the conference.
Although Eastern Washington and Boise State are good teams, ones who have proven over and over they could compete in a Power Five conference, there is little doubt WSU is playing much better right now than it was when it lost its first two games.
So how did the Cougars (3-2, 2-0 Pac-12) get so quickly from maybe not making the postseason to maybe playing in the Rose Bowl? Here are some insightful numbers:
49.67 – The WSU offense broke out against Idaho and has been supercharged ever since, averaging just a smidge under 50 points per game. The Cougars scored 70 combined points in their first two losses, and have upped their average output since then by two touchdowns per game.
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1.4 – The Cougars rank No. 2 in the Pac-12 in interceptions per game, and Shalom Luani, who was suspended for the season opener, leads all conference players with 0.75 passes picked off per game. Furthermore, linebacker Isaac Dotson is tied for fifth in the conference with 0.4 interceptions per game.
116.8 – Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey was a Heisman finalist last season, and Oregon’s Royce Freeman is an NFL-worthy running back. The pair rank first and second in the conference in rushing yards per game, respectively, and are the only Pac-12 backs averaging more than 100 rushing yards per game. The Cougars have already faced both McCaffrey and Freeman and are still giving up the second-fewest rushing yards of any Pac-12 team.
187.7 – There could be many reasons the Cougars are averaging 187.7 rushing yards in wins and 71 rushing yards in losses. Maybe the teams the Cougars are beating up on the ground just have bad defenses, or maybe those teams are so concerned about WSU’s passing attack that they effectively concede the run every play. But what’s indisputable is that once WSU started finding as much success running the ball as passing it, the offense has been almost impossible to stop.
52 – Washington State has needed to move the chains on third down 75 times so far this season and has been successful on 39 attempts. No other Pac-12 team converts 50 percent or more of its third-down tries.
20 – The Cougars, conversely, have been pretty stingy on key downs. WSU is letting opponents convert on 39.1 percent of their third-down attempts, which is a big reason the Cougars lead the conference by limiting opponents to 20 first downs per game.
74.1 – Luke Falk leads the nation in completion percentage and he’s getting better. On Thursday, he was named the Manning Quarterback of the Week, and was placed on the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Watch List.