Midseason report: Washington State

In Pullman, relevancy is a good thing.

There was evidence of it in a season-opening 31-24 loss at Auburn and further proof the next week when the Cougars notched their first win over a ranked opponent since 2006 with a 10-7 win at then-No. 22 USC. And after adding blowout wins against Southern Utah, Idaho and Cal, it became even more clear that Mike Leach has the program on the rise.

WSU’s 4-2 start had the Palouse abuzz with talk of a bowl game, but the Cougars -- who have been shutout of the postseason since beating Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl -- still have work to do to make that happen.

If they do, the Cougars (4-3, 2-2) will have earned it.

A peek at the remaining five games shows five teams with winning records, three games on the road and two ranked teams.

Before last weekend, home games against Oregon State and Utah appeared like two of the better opportunities to help get to six wins. Then the Beavers ran off 35 unanswered points to beat WSU 52-24, and Utah upset No. 5 Stanford. It’s not an ideal year for the Cougars to miss Colorado.

Will the Apple Cup serve as a potential elimination game for the Cougs? It very well could.

Quarterback Connor Halliday has done a good job spreading the ball around in Leach’s Air Raid offense, as 12 players have at least 10 catches and nine have at least 100 yards receiving. Halliday’s 2,241 yards passing ranks No. 3 nationally, but his 13 interceptions leads the country.

Offensive MVP: WR Gabe Marks. The sophomore has nearly equalled his production from a solid debut season with 46 catches for 512 yards and four scores. His catches rank tied for No. 10 nationally, and he has nearly 200 more receiving yards than anyone else for the Cougars.

Defensive MVP: S Deone Bucannon. Bucannon’s play has justified his spot on the Jim Thorpe Award Watch List. He leads the team in tackles (64), forced fumbles (2) and is tied with Damante Horton for the team lead with four interceptions. He has moved up to No. 5 in school history in tackles (334) and tied for No. 4 in interceptions (13).