June 26, 2002
PULLMAN, Wash. --- Northwest football rivals Washington State, Washington, Oregon, and Oregon State do have something in common. All four schools were included in The Sporting News' magazine preseason top 25, with the Cougars ranked No. 6.
TSN is predicting a five-team race for the Pac-10 crown, with No. 12 Washington, No. 20 Oregon, and No. 25 Oregon State battling No. 18 USC, the fifth conference squad featured in the rankings, to the wire.
The magazine likes WSU to prevail, thanks in part to a favorable home schedule, which has the Trojans, Ducks, and Huskies coming to Pullman, and in part to Heisman Trophy candidate Jason Gesser. The senior quarterback is listed as the seventh best contender for college football's most prestigious award, and the No. 5 signal caller in the nation.
Gesser is not the only Cougar receiving recognition from TSN. Senior offensive guard Derrick Roche was named preseason second team All-America and the third best at his position overall. Fellow lineman Tyler Hunt checked in at No. 11 in the country at center.
WSU was also prominent in the unit rankings. The publication rated the offensive line No. 6, saying, "Roche is a beast who has been compared to former Cougar great Mike Utley. (Calvin) Armstrong and (Sam) Lightbody are youngsters who should only get better. Few direct traffic as well as Hunt."
The defensive line also made the rankings, coming in at No. 9 in the nation.
Sophomore wide receiver Devard Darling and junior running back Jermaine Green were hailed as "welcome additions" to the Cougar squad, and TSN predicts both will become major threats in WSU's spread attack.
Darling and Green will be needed in what TSN calls this season's premier matchup in the Pac-10, the Nov. 23 Apple Cup in Pullman. "The Apple Cup figures to have Pac-10 bragging rights on the line. This year's battle figures to come down to which team has the best defense, because both squads figure to have formidable offenses. Expect a cold, blustery day on the Palouse. If we're lucky, it may even snow," the magazine offered.
WSU's season begins Aug. 31 in the new Seattle Seahawk Stadium against Nevada.