2013 Washington State football schedule: Dates, toughest opponents and more

James Snook-US PRESSWIRE

Washington State won just three games under Mike Leach in his first year in Pullman. The schedule's tough and the talent isn't much better, but Leach is still a mad genius, and there are some marquee matchups on the schedule.

The first year under Mike Leach didn't exactly go as planned, as the Cougars won just three games. But there's still hope that the coach that made Texas Tech into a contender can turn things around at Washington State, too.

The Cougars' defense was bad in 2012, allowing 33.7 points per game, 101st in the nation. Their offense was somehow worse, scoring just 20.4 points per game, 108th in college football. They have a lot to figure out and a schedule that isn't particularly compromising.

2013 Washington State schedule

Date Opponent Conf. Projected ranking

8/31/13 @ Auburn SEC 58

9/7/13 @ USC P12 17

9/14/13 Southern Utah FCS

9/21/13 Idaho Ind 122

9/28/13 Stanford P12 3

10/5/13 @ Cal P12 73

10/12/13 Oregon State P12 23

10/19/13 @ Oregon P12 2

10/26/13 Open date

10/31/13 Arizona State P12 36

11/9/13 Open date

11/16/13 @ Arizona P12 30

11/23/13 Utah P12 45

11/29/13 @ Washington P12 48

12/7/13 Pac-12 Champ game

Date Opponent Conf. Projected ranking

Projections from Football Outsiders' 2013 college football almanac.

The good news for Washington State is that they had strong quarterback play, finishing ninth in the nation with 330.4 passing yards per game. There were problems, though. That didn't result in a lot of points (just 23 touchdowns, 53rd in the country), their quarterbacks weren't careful enough with the ball (21 interceptions to go along with the scant number of touchdowns) and primary starter Jeff Tuel is gone. Connor Halliday wasn't quite as good as Tuel in his five starts, but now he's a year older. The Cougars could really use any semblance of a rushing game, averaging just 29.1 yards per game, which is just horrific.

A spectacular season for Washington State would end up with bowl eligibility, but its tough to foresee. Southern Utah and Idaho are wins, but its hard to find Ws on the Cougars' Pac-12 schedule. Last year, they had Colorado on the schedule, but lost 35-34, the only game the Buffaloes won all season long. This year, they don't have Colorado on their schedule, and only two teams they'll face in conference play -- Utah and Cal -- had losing records last season. And both of those teams handled the Cougars last year. A season-opener against Auburn -- dealing with a new coach Gus Malzahn, after an awful 2-10 season -- could be a good indicator of whether this team can be competitive.

There are two clear highlights on the schedule. The first is a Halloween game against Arizona State, one of only four games in the nation that Thursday, and the only one between major conference squads. Yes, Washington State has already cancelled classes to ensure the Pullman crowd is sufficiently raucous for national TV. That said, its a tough game to get excited for, considering the Sun Devils won 46-7 last year and have won eight of the last nine games in the series.

There are two clear highlights on the schedule. The first is a Halloween game against Arizona State, one of only four games in the nation that Thursday, and the only one between major conference squads. Yes, Washington State has already cancelled classes to ensure the Pullman crowd is sufficiently raucous for national TV. That said, its a tough game to get excited for, considering the Sun Devils won 46-7 last year and have won eight of the last nine games in the series.

The other, as always, is the season finale, the Apple Cup, this year in Seattle on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The Huskies will be out for revenge after the Cougars' only Pac-12 win last season came in overtime, 31-28, in the intra-state rivalry matchup.

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