Winning any given game in college football game is not always a big deal. In a season where every game matters, anything and everything can happen. We’ve seen wild upsets. We’ve seen crazy games once #Pac12AfterDark hits.

Washington State upsetting USC last week proved that the Cougars have talent. It proved that Mike Leach’s squad can play with anyone. The upset showed that Leach has his program at a competitive level, which was not the case before he arrived. What the upset did not show, however, was whether the Cougars could sustain their high level of play.

That question was resoundingly answered on national television Saturday night, as Washington State laid a beatdown on the Oregon Ducks in Eugene. Winning on the road anywhere is difficult in college football. Autzen Stadium is one of the toughest places for opponents to play, but the Cougars showed no hesitation or trouble thrashing the Ducks, 33-10.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from the victory for the Cougars is how the defense played. Oregon might be past its Chip Kelly days, but the Ducks still have a potent offense under first-year coach Willie Taggart this season. Alex Grinch’s defense held Oregon to 277 total yards and 10 points, by far the Ducks’ lowest offensive output of the season.

Mike Leach’s “air raid”-style offenses have always been potent. But as the (now Leach-less) Texas Tech Red Raiders have shown the past few years, doing that without a strong defense just leads to high-scoring losses. Leach now has a real defense at Washington State, in addition to the potent offense led by fifth-year senior quarterback Luke Falk.

We saw last week that the Cougars had bite. An early-season scrap against Boise State made us take a little longer to realize just how talented this squad is, but no one will be doubting it now. This week, where Washington State backed up a big win with an impressive showing against a good team, showed just where the Cougars are. They are for real and are here to stay.

The schedule shapes up very nicely for Mike Leach to finally be coaching a College Football Playoff contender when the Apple Cup rolls around after Thanksgiving.

There are no gimme games in the Pac-12 (except against Oregon State, who the Cougars already thrashed), but the next three games should be relatively easy ones. Barring a pretty extreme upset, the Cougars should be 9-0 when the calendar turns to November. A three-game stretch of Stanford, Utah, and Washington (followed by a potential Pac-12 Championship Game) will determine whether or not Washington State is a Playoff team.

But the first Saturday in October taught us to expect Mike Leach’s team to be in the thick of it until the season ends.

About Yesh Ginsburg

Yesh has been a fan and student of college football since before he can remember. He spent years mastering the intricacies of the BCS and now keeps an eye on the national picture as teams jockey for College Football Playoff positioning.