No. 22 Washington State: 'They’re Tough to Stop'

Preparing for that Air Raid offense is hard because you have to be ready for tempo, multiple formations, crossing routes. Defenses can’t substitute. The scheme isn’t overcomplicated, but they give different looks. If they have a good quarterback, which they do this year [6' 4", 225-pound senior Luke Falk], and if they have receivers, which they do [led by junior Tavares Martin Jr., who had 64 catches in 2016] they’re tough to stop. They were good on the line last year too, which allowed them to run it a little more. The left guard, [6' 8", 370-pound senior All-America] Cody O’Connell, is a player, and right tackle Cole Madison [a 6' 5", 315-pound senior] does a good job too.

Since Alex Grinch took over as defensive coordinator [in 2015], they’ve done a good job of giving different looks with lots of movement in their front seven and lots of different coverages. They keep you guessing. They’re very aggressive in stopping the run, which is why they create negative plays and force a lot of turnovers [47 in two years]. Most of their front seven is back, but they need a pass rusher or two to emerge to make up for the secondary, which isn’t strong. Because they’re multiple, the offense is guessing, and that causes quarterbacks to make mistakes. The trade-off is that sometimes you can get caught in the wrong defense. That’s how big plays happen.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.