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What will Mike Leachsí impact be at Washington State?
by Ben Burns

Accurately assessing the impact a new coach will have on a program is difficult, but profitable for those who do it successfully.

Several intriguing coaching eras begin this college football season, none more so than in Pullman, Washington, where the eccentric Mike Leach inherits a team with NFL talent at wide receiver and an a pair of experienced quarterbacks.

Leach, of course, arrives at Washington State after an ugly exit at Texas Tech two years ago. The charismatic Leach has engerized the Cougar fan base and will certainly be coaching with a chip on his shoulder. That attitude could produce a relentless approach from a coach who has never been shy about piling on points.

Leach went 63-54-1 against the spread at Texas Tech. His last five Red Raider offenses averaged 38 points per game.

Heíll have some great tools to orchestrate his attack at Washington State, highlighted by junior wide out Marquess Wilson, who caught 12 touchdowns last season. In Leachís offense, Wilson could be in for a monster season.

Quarterback Jeff Tuel heads into his senior season as the starter, after an injury-plagued junior year. He completed 19 of 21 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns in the Spring Game.

With Tuel out for most of last season, backup Connor Halliday saw a lot of action and finished with 960 yards passing with nine touchdowns and six interceptions.

Tuel is Leachís guy, but Halliday is a luxury.

Most pundits have the Cougars pegged last in the Pac-12 North and oddsmakers have them as 45/1 longshots to win the conference.

On paper, the Cougars certainly donít appear to have talent to stack up against Oregon and Southern Cal. But on the sidelines, they just might have enough to get in the mix, which is all youíre really looking from a big longshot, i.e, hedging opportunities.

The news isnít quite as good for new Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin. The former Houston coach must make the leap from coaching in Conference USA to the SEC. And he has to do it while replacing a first-round NFL draft pick at quarterback with a redshirt freshman.

Johnny Maziell is expected to be the Aggiesí starter. He was the top QB recruit out of Texas a year ago, but has never started a college game. Heíll have a Thursday-night game against Louisiana Tech to get acclimated before Florida comes to College Station in Week 2.

Itís going to be difficult for oddsmakers to truly get a good gauge on the impact of either of these coaches early in the season. And when oddsmakers are guessing, there are opportunities for bettors.

David Payne Purdum wrote this on behalf of professional handicapper Ben Burns.

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