Gage Gubrud

Eastern Washington quarterback Gage Gubrud (8) throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Washington State in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.

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Before the start of Illinois football's training camp on Aug. 2 in Champaign, beat writer BOB ASMUSSEN is counting down the Top 50 teams heading into the 2019 college football season:

No. 22: Washington State

Coach: Mike Leach

2018 record: 11-2

Projected 2019 record: 9-3

Circle the date: Oct. 26. at Oregon

Bowl trip: Holiday

Why No. 22: It’s easy to believe with Leach in charge. Entering his eighth season in Pullman, Leach has turned the Cougars into a contender in the Pac-12 North. ... Washington State will miss quarterback Gardner Minshew, who threw for 4,779 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2018. ... The Cougars added Eastern Washington transfer Gage Gubrud during the offseason, but he wasn’t able to participate in spring drills because of a leg injury. If Gubrud doesn’t win the job, it will likely be senior Anthony Gordon. ... Four starters return on the offensive line, which will help whoever takes over at quarterback. ... Leach has a talented group of receivers returning, including Davontavean Martin and Dezmon Patmon, who both caught more than 60 passes last season. ... The defense will be led by linebacker Jahad Woods. ... The Washington State defense is run by former Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys and its linebackers coach is former Eastern Illinois defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni. ... The most difficult game in the nonconference is a mid-September trip to Houston. In the Pac-12, the Cougars travel to Utah, Oregon and Washington. Stanford visits Pullman.

Last year’s ranking: No. 41

College Football Reporter/Columnist

Bob Asmussen is a college football reporter and columnist for The News-Gazette. His email is asmussen@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@BobAsmussen).