Washington State was embarrassed by Portland State of the FCS last week and now must travel cross-country for a tough date with Rutgers in Piscataway on Saturday.
The home favorite appears to have the advantage Saturday in a cross sectional matchup when the Washington State Cougars (0-1, 0-1 ATS) of the Pac-12 travel all the way to the East Coast to pay a visit to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-0, 1-0 ATS) out of the Big Ten at High Points Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, NJ at 3:30 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPNU.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Rutgers as a moderate home favorite for this contest with the current line at -3½ with odds of -106.
Stunned at Home by FCS School
Washington State comes off of an ugly 3-9 season under offensive guru Mike Leach that included a 2-7 mark inside the Pac-12, and now this year got off to a terrible start as the Cougars were upset by Portland State of the FCS 24-17 in their opener last week as 30-point favorites, marking the first time in 20 games Washington State lost to an FCS squad. Furthermore, making this 3000-mile flight across the country after such a brutal loss may not help matters.
Rutgers joined the Big Ten last season and the Scarlet Knights went a commendable 3-5 in conference play on their maiden voyage. They also went a perfect 4-0 out of conference with that 7-5 overall record good enough to earn the Knights their ninth bowl appearance in 10 yards, and it was a victorious appearance as they were the winning college football picks 40-21 over North Carolina in the Quick Lane Bowl.
Rutgers also opened up 2015 vs. an FCS opponent, but with much better results than Washington State as the Scarlet Knights scored 42 points in the second half of a 63-13 rout of Norfolk State.
Connor Halliday Missed Already
On the surface, Washington State quarterback Luke Falk appeared to have a nice game in his first collegiate start for the Cougars last week completing 27-of-41 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns. However, Washington State expects more from its quarterbacks under pass-happy Coach Leach than 7.0 yards per attempt and Falk had huge shoes to fill replacing the departed Connor Halliday, who oh by the way led the country in passing yards last season.
Moreover, the Cougars have to score a lot of points because their defense is downright awful. Washington State finished 117th out of 128 FBS schools in points allowed last season at 38.6 per game and 98th in total defense surrendering 442.2 yards per game. Sure the Cougs allowed just 24 points and 294 yards last week, but that was vs. an FCS team at home they still could not make enough stops to win the game.
Now the Cougars are facing a more potent FBS offense in an unfamiliar road environment, which should also have an impact on the sophomore quarterback Falk in his first career road start.
Repeat of Last Season?
This game us a rematch from last season when Rutgers went on the road to Washington State and upset the Cougars 41-38 as 7½-point underdogs, and that was probably vs. a better WSU offense with Halliday at the helm. Sure Rutgers also waved goodbye to its quarterback last season in Gary Nova, but new starter Chris Laviano was a perfect 4-for-4 for 138 yards with three of those four passes going for touchdowns while playing only the second half last week.
That was because Laviano and four other Rutgers players were suspended for the first half vs. Norfolk State for an off-the-field incident, and the 42 points in the second half with a full allotment of the current roster speaks for itself. And the Knights have a balanced attack this year with running back Paul James back for his senior year. James rushed for 82 yards on just 15 carries last week, and he was not even the leading rusher with Josh Hicks running for 118 yards.
That balanced attack should give the poor Washington State defense fits, which should enable Rutgers to run up the score here.
Trending the Chalk
Finally, there are quite a few trends pointing in the direction of Rutgers here. The Scarlet Knights are 4-0 ATS in their last four non-conference games and an identical 4-0 ATS in their last four September games, while Washington State is 0-6 ATS in its last six games vs. teams with winning records and 1-7 ATS in its last eight games after accumulating more than 280 passing yards in its previous game.
We saw nothing last week from either team to suggest that these trends should not continue for at least one more game, so give the reasonable points with Rutgers at home hosting Washington State in Piscataway on Saturday.
College Football Pick: Rutgers -3½ (-106)