Our NCAA football handicapping expert examines the ESPN game on Friday between Washington State Cougars and Nevada Wolfpack and shares his free pick on one of these sides.

The Nevada Wolfpack will host the Washington St. Cougars on Friday evening at Mackay Stadium in Reno. Kickoff is scheduled for 10:30 PM ET, and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN. According to College Football odds Washington St. has opened as a 2.0 point road favorite.

 

Cougars on the Rebound
The Washington St. Cougars come off a heartbreaking 41-38 loss in their season opener versus Rutgers last Thursday at Century Link Field in Seattle. The Cougars squandered a 31-24 lead in the 4th quarter, and allowed the Scarlet Knights to score the go ahead touchdown with just over 3-minutes to play in the game. I previewed that Rutgers/Washington St. game for Sportsbook Review last week, and was correct in picking Rutgers as an 8.0 point underdog. Despite the loss, the Cougars football program has made positive strides under head coach Mike Leach who’s in his 3rd year at Washington St. They entered the 2013 season having gone a futile 7-33 in their last 40 road games. However, they went 3-2 on the road in 2013 which paved the way for a 6-6 regular season, and they concluded the year by playing in a bowl game. The good news for the Cougars last week was their 538 yards of offense. The bad news is that just 6 of those yards came on the ground. The one-dimensional attack isn’t a huge surprise for a Mike Leach offense, but they certainly need more production from their ground game to keep opposing defenses honest.

 

A Win is a Win for the Wolfpack
Nevada wasn’t particularly impressive in their opening 28-19 home win last Saturday versus Southern Utah, despite amassing 547 yards of total offense, and exhibiting a very balanced attack. They were never really in danger of losing the game, but were far from covering the number as a 24.5 point favorite. The Wolfpack are coming off a disappointing 4-8 season in 2013, and will be looking to turn things around in Brian Polian’s 2nd year as head coach of the Wolfpack, after taking over for long time successful head coach Chris Ault who retired. Nevada has gone a stellar 47-16 in their last 63 home games, but has gone just 3-3 in their last 6 at Mackay Stadium versus non-conference opponents.

 

Very Capable Starting Quarterbacks
Washington St. quarterback Connor Halladay comes off a huge game in last week’s loss. The senior signal caller went 40-56 in the air for 532 yards, threw 5 touchdown passes, and was intercepted just once. That game comes on the heels of a fabulous 2013 campaign, when he threw for 4597 yards, and 34 touchdowns.

Nevada senior Cody Fajardo is a legitimate dual threat quarterback. In last week’s win he threw for 303 yards, completed 73.1% (30-41) of his pass attempts, and ran for another 68 yards. Last season Fajardo threw for 2633 yards and rushed for 762. Entering this season, he’d completed a superb 68% of his pass attempts in his college career.

 

Final Analysis
Both of these offenses will be able to move the ball on the opposing defenses in this contest. The difference in the game will come down to which defense can come up with a key stop at crunch time, and who wins the turnover battle. Washington St. will be playing on 2-days more of rest than Nevada. My lean in this one is going to the team from the power conference that possesses the better and more experienced head coach.

Free College Football Pick: Washington St. -2.0 over Nevada at a Sportsbook like Heritage Sports.