Off to its first 3-0 start since 2005, No. 18 Washington State will be missing its defensive leader Saturday when the Cougars face visiting Nevada. The Cougars boast the top pass defense in the Pac-12 but will need to adjust to life without senior middle linebacker Peyton Pelluer, who suffered a season-ending foot injury in last Saturday’s 52-23 win over Oregon State.
Pelluer’s injury has been one of the few negatives for Washington State, which has averaged 43.3 points and scored a total of 17 touchdowns in wins over Montana State, Boise State and Oregon State. The Cougars’ explosive offense is led by senior quarterback Luke Falk, who was named Pac-12 offensive player of the week after passing for 396 yards and six touchdowns against the Beavers - including five to receivers Tavares Martin Jr. and Isaiah Johnson-Mack. Falk figures to post similar numbers against struggling Nevada, which is allowing 32.7 points per game and lost 30-28 last Saturday to an Idaho State team that was picked to finish last in the Big Sky Conference. True freshman Kaymen Cureton is set to make his second start at quarterback for the Wolf Pack but will be hard-pressed to keep pace with the Cougars’ Air Raid offense.
TV: 6 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network. LINE: Washington State -28
ABOUT NEVADA (0-3): Cureton replaced returning starter Ty Gangi and turned in a promising outing against Idaho State, completing 19-of-33 passes for 205 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. First-year coach Jay Norvell is hoping Cureton can help the Wolf Pack bounce back after they fumbled seven times (losing two) against Idaho State in their first setback against an FCS team since 1994. Starting running back Jaxson Kincaide (concussion) is listed as questionable to face the Cougars while senior defensive tackle Jarius McDade will miss the rest of the season after injuring his knee in practice last week.
ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE (3-0): One week after coming back from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Boise State 47-44 in triple overtime, the Cougars put together a complete effort against Oregon State. Falk is the nation’s active leader in passing yards (11,793) and passing touchdowns (98) and should have little trouble against a Nevada team that ranks 109th in pass efficiency defense while allowing 284.3 passing yards per game. On defense, fifth-year senior Nate DeRider could make his first start for the Cougars in place of Pelluer.
1. Nevada held on for a 24-13 victory over Washington State in the last meeting between the teams in Reno in 2014.
2. Washington State is 15-3 when forcing multiple turnovers under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.
3. Nevada has lost 10 straight games to Top 25 teams, including 39-10 at Notre Dame last season.
PREDICTION: Washington State 52, Nevada 13