Posted on October 12, 2020
Everybody has expectations, it’s inevitable. You expect to do your best, whether at work, in school, or hoisting up three-pointers at the rec center.
And you expect your favorite football team to go undefeated.
The hard part is having realistic expectations.
If there is anything Cougar fans have learned after years of disappointing seasons and tough losses, it is how to have realistic expectations.
Those expectations have been much higher the past five years, with Mike Leach leading the team to some of its best seasons in program history. But as the 2019 season proved, the 11-2 Alamo Bowl winning season is not the new normal.
Expectations must be especially tempered this season. The combination of a new head coach and a unique COVID-shortened season makes for an unprecedented season.
The Cougars will not go undefeated this season. I repeat, the Cougars will not go undefeated this season. They will not win the Pac-12 championship, and they won’t win the North Division.
But that is okay. Wazzu never did any of those things in the Leach era, which was widely viewed as a success (though not as much of a success as some would have preferred).
This is not to say that Nick Rolovich will never do any of those things during his time in Pullman. It is just saying that he will not achieve those things this season.
The question then shifts to what would constitute a successful Cougar football season in 2020?
The first way for WSU to measure success this season is simply to compete in each game. It may sound like a simple idea (isn’t every team supposed to compete every game?) but there is a little more to it.
The Cougars need to go out on the field every week and prove that they are not a Pac-12 doormat team that people suddenly think they are. This team has been ranked in each of the last five seasons, and even ended the 2018 term as the 10th-ranked team in the nation.
The Cougs must beat then teams they are supposed to beat: Oregon State and Stanford. They also have to put up a fight in each of the other games, and come away with an unexpected win or two.
By doing that, Washington State will reaffirm that it is not a pushover, and will lay the foundation for a more successful program in the near future.
The second thing that must happen for this season to be successful is for WSU to develop a quarterback of the future.
Whoever ends up winning the starting job under center, whether it be Cammon Cooper, Gunner Cruz, or Jayden De Laura, will have to show coaches and fans alike that he is the right player to lead the team going forward.
He does not have to light up the rest of the conference like Anthony Gordon, or take the college football landscape by storm like Gardner Minshew. But he does have to show that be has earned his place in the long line of prolific WSU signal callers.
The next starting quarterback must demonstrate the ability to orchestrate the offense and perform well under pressure, especially when it’s needed most. He does not have to do that from Day One; in fact, a rough start is to be expected in this weird year. But he does need to finish the year strong.
It has been a few years since WSU fans have spent an entire offseason knowing who the starting quarterback will be for next year, but they will if everything goes right this season.
The final thing that will represent a success for the Cougars is signs of life on defense.
The offense has been great for years in Pullman, largely because they had to make up for a struggling defense. For as many points as the offense scored, the defense gave up almost as many. For as much as opposing defenses feared the offense, they loved playing the defense.
Again, just to reiterate the realistic part of these expectations, the Cougar defense does not have to be the reincarnation of the Legion of Boom this season to be successful.
The Cougars will be successful on that side of the ball in 2020 if they can demonstrate that they have improved and are no longer an 11-man version of a sieve.
With new defensive coordinator Jake Dickert now leading the charge, there is optimism for improvement on defense. Dickert comes to WSU after a stint at Wyoming, where he helmed a Top 50 defense, and one of the best run defenses in the country.
Another important aspect on that side of the ball is the development of young talent. Just like at quarterback, there will be plenty of positions on defense where new guys will earn a starting role for the future.
If the Cougars can figure out how to use their talent going forward, while also forcing more turnovers and creating more pressure on passing downs, the defense meets its expectations and will be on the right track for next season.
Expect the Unexpected | Cougar Dash – October 12, 2020 https://t.co/rdoNj2gcqD
— Dash Sports (@DashSportsTV) October 12, 2020
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