It’s Senior Night in Pullman as the Washington State Cougars host the Colorado Buffaloes in Pac-12 action tonight.
Both teams need to win out to reach bowl eligibility and will be looking to get back in the win column after combining to prevail in just one of their last 13 games.
The college football odds board has tabbed the Cougars as -4.5 home favorites with the total set at 64.
I have my eyes set on the total for Friday’s best bet. Read on for that analysis as well as my full college football picks for Colorado vs. Washington State on Friday, November 17.
Colorado vs Washington State best odds
Colorado vs Washington State picks and predictions
Coach Prime’s Colorado Buffaloes have just one win in their last seven games. It’s been a fall from grace after a three-game winning streak to start the year and they’ll now require an unlikely two-game sweep on the road against the Washington State Cougars and Utah Utes to reach bowl eligibility.
It’s a similar story for the Cougars, who were 4-0 to start the year but are now 4-6 after six straight defeats and need to win out to make a bowl game. That seems unlikely with an ominous matchup against the undefeated No. 5 Washington Huskies in the Apple Cup on deck.
Rather than pick a side in this game between two struggling squads, I’ll instead focus my attention on the total and examine each offense’s outlook for Friday night on the Palouse.
Let’s start with Colorado. For all the ups and downs this season, the offense has mostly been effective, checking in at 49th in EPA per play, 59th in success rate, and 47th in explosiveness. Shedeur Sanders has thrown for 3,144 yards and 26 touchdowns while taking care of the ball, issuing only three interceptions. He has three good receivers to target in Xavier Weaver (65 receptions for 867 yards and four touchdowns), Jimmy Horn Jr. (536 yards, six touchdowns), and Travis Hunter (532 yards, three touchdowns in seven games).
This team knows where its bread is buttered — the Buffs can’t run the ball (69.9 rushing yards per game on a measly 2.3 yards per carry), so they simply avoid doing so, leading the country in passing rate. The Cougars have a decent secondary led by corner Chau Smith-Wade but aren’t a scary pass defense overall, ranking 60th in EPA per pass and 81st in passing explosiveness.
The best way to stall this offense is to take advantage of its suspect line that the transfer portal couldn’t fix in just one year, but creating pressure hasn’t been the forte of this Cougars defense. They check in at just 107th in front seven havoc and 104th with 17 sacks on the year despite featuring two talented pass rushers in Brennan Jackson and Ron Stone Jr., who haven’t received a lot of help as they’ve combined for more than half of the team’s sacks (9.5).
Washington State hasn't played an impressive defensive game yet this season. The Cougars have been burned for at least 38 points by four of their last five opponents. Two of the only low-scoring games on their resume feature Stanford, who opted to run the ball 38 times to ice out a 10-7 victory (not a worry with Colorado, since it can’t run the ball), and UCLA, who managed 471 total yards despite having an inept offense that is partly to blame for the recent news that Chip Kelly’s time in Southern California is likely at an end.
On the flip side of things, Washington State’s offense checks in at 37th in success rate and will look to expose this poor Colorado defense ranking 124th in both success rate and EPA per play. That’s a wide gulf, and it’s clearly an advantage for the Cougars.
Similarly to Colorado, Washington State can’t run the ball (81 rushing yards per game on 2.9 yards per carry) and therefore keeps the ball in the air (third in pass rate). It seems like forever ago now that Cameron Ward was receiving Heisman buzz earlier in the year, but he’s mostly been effective this year, throwing for 3,127 yards and 20 touchdowns to five interceptions. Three different receivers have surpassed 685 yards — Lincoln Victor leads the way with 723, while Kyle Williams (711) and Josh Kelly (687) are right behind.
This should be bombs away for Ward against a Buffaloes secondary ranking 118th in EPA per pass and 129th in passing success rate. Travis Hunter is a star, but there are questions at just about every other position in the secondary and that’s a concern as Ward likes to spread the ball around and will find his targets. The Cougars’ offensive line has been poor (95th in front seven havoc), but this isn’t a difficult matchup against a Buffs defense that ranks just 98th in PFF’s pass-rush grade (68.1).
Teams have been able to gameplan around the Cougars’ predictable offensive attack, but I’m not sure we can have a ton of confidence in the Buffaloes drawing up a flawless defensive plan for this contest as there isn’t much prior evidence from which to draw that conclusion, so I’m expecting a solid day at the office for Ward & Co.
There should be a ton of pass attempts in this contest between two teams that rank in the top three in pass rate. The tempo should also be there as both rank in the Top 25 in terms of plays per game, each snapping the ball more than 74 times per game. Both defenses enter this contest with massive question marks as well, and all of this together has me playing the Over.
My best bet: Over 64 (-110 at bet365)
Picks made at time of writing may not reflect live odds.
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Colorado vs Washington State same-game parlay
This SGP is a three-legger centered around my best bet on the Over. I will be adding two Travis Hunter props to make this happen — his receiving yardage Over at 62.5 and him to score a touchdown at -125.
Hunter has excelled this season, racking up at least 73 yards in five of his six full games this season. That’s excluding the Colorado State game, where he was hospitalized after playing just 18 pass snaps. He’s been a huge factor in the passing game with 59 targets across those six games — good for nearly 10 a game.
The opportunity, volume, and talent are all there for Hunter to have another successful game against a beatable Washington State secondary and a Cougars front that hasn’t been generating much pressure. If this Over is to hit, it’s highly likely that Hunter will play a part in his team’s contribution to the total.
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Colorado vs Washington State spread and Over/Under analysis
Washington State is currently a 4.5-point favorite while the total is set at 64.
For all of the ups and downs, the Buffs have mostly been pretty good at covering against the spread, going 6-3-1 ATS. They’ve covered three straight contests, with all three occurring in games in which they were the underdog.
The Cougars are just 4-6 ATS this season and have been very unprofitable lately, covering just once since the start of October. They have lost outright each of the last two times they’ve been favored, so it’s difficult to have much confidence in them taking care of business.
The situational spot does seem to favor the Cougars considering they’re playing at home for Senior Night while Colorado is traveling on a short week. The Buffs gave it their all last week but ultimately fell short by three points against Arizona, likely eliminating Coach Prime’s squad from bowl contention. That being said, it’s also a potential look-ahead spot for Washington State with the Apple Cup on deck.
The numbers favor the home team as the Cougars are below-average on both sides of the ball, but only merely so (72nd in EPA per play on offense, 78th on defense) while the Buffs are average offensively (49th in EPA per play) but tragic defensively (124th).
Colorado vs Washington State betting trend to know
Washington State is 4-1 O/U at home this season. Find more college football betting trends for Colorado vs Washington State.
Colorado vs Washington State game info
|Location:||Gesa Field, Pullman, WA|
|Date:||Friday, November 17, 2023|
|Kickoff:||10:30 p.m. ET|
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