Most important game: Washington State

June, 1, 2012
6/01/12
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Every game counts. But some games count more. Or tell us more.

We're going through the Pac-12 and picking out one game that seems most important -- or potentially most revealing -- for each team from our vantage point today.

We're going in alphabetical order.

Washington State

Most important game: Aug. 30 at BYU

Why it's important: We close out this series with a question: Just how much of an impact is Mike Leach going to have in his first year?

The early returns are extremely favorable. Having spoken with several players and coaches from Washington State in the last few months, there is definitely a renewed sense of excitement surrounding the Cougars. The belief is that of the four new coaches in the conference, Leach is going to have the biggest, most immediate impact. And given some of the players he has at his disposal, it's tough to argue.

A national TV audience will find out that Thursday night. It seems like quarterback Jeff Tuel has picked up the offense very quickly and that chemistry is flowing with his receivers. That's what this offense is all about. And like many, I'm excited to see it in action.

So why this game over the Apple Cup (which was my original pick until I talked to some folks at WSU who insisted this is the game to choose)? First, there is the national TV aspect. Any national exposure is good for recruiting. Second, Leach has said so much of his football philosophy was nurtured during his time as a student at BYU watching the LaVell Edwards teams. This game is obviously very personal to him. Third, a quality road victory to open the season does wonders for a team's confidence.

A victory over BYU would set the Cougars up nicely for the next few weeks -- home to Eastern Washington, at UNLV and then home to Colorado -- before meeting Oregon in Seattle on Sept. 29. A 4-0 start is more likely than not for this team which should be oozing confidence by the time it faces the North Division favorites.

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