Friday, September 30, 2005

Brink getting good ink; weekly picks

Good read from the TNT on Brink:

http://www.thenewstribune.com/sports/story/5218405p-4741255c.html

Every week it feels better to know that this is Brink's team. He sure has had some positive write-ups lately, and for good reason. Check out the picture of Brink in action last year in the article vs. the picture below this year from the Idaho game. Physically you can see the difference in just one year, and that 10-15 lbs isn't just lip service.

It's going to be very interesting to see how he plays with the whole return-to-OSU theme, the site of his first (and worst) start. He's completely different in every way, mentally, physically, you name it. Oh yeah, his team is a hell of a lot better too! Add in some of the Beavs name defensive players they lost, again (Meeuwesen, Browner, Arick Anderson, Swancutt, two starting LB's) AND the fact that the Beavs have struggled like crazy to keep the opposing team out of the endzone, you HAVE to like our chances! Hey, win or lose, at least we'll have a better idea of where we are after this one.

Also sounds as though Don Turner and Dada will both play, with Dada getting the start. Both returned to practice yesterday per Cougfan's premium stuff. Also they have moved super-athlete Michael Willis to corner, which is out of necessity. Pretty amazing that this 6-3, 225lb kid can play every position but d-tackle on defense! Man, that 2005 recruiting class, in a couple of years we'll look back and just be amazed at how many of these kids are starters. Usually in a class of, say, 25 kids, less than 1/2 ever even turn out to be starters, maybe 3 or 4 are possible all-conference picks, and the rest are either backups, flat-out leave the program, or never even make it academically. I have some signing class info from the 2000 - 2002 seasons, and it's interesting to see some of the names and some of the comments about those players. I'll find that stuff and post it next week.

I'll say this though - EVEN if we lose, we can't lose sight of the big picture. We still have an excellent chance of being 5-1 after our first 6 games. With Stanford next week, that should be a game we win, and then with UCLA, well, they never play well in Pullman and the crowd will be bananas, so we have a good shot at that one too. Mid-October is usually about the time UCLA starts their mid-season struggle, so we might be catching them at a good time. They play Cal the week before they travel to Pullman, too, so who knows.

In other words, I'm going the other way in regards to how important this week really is in terms of MUST-WIN. Every year, we always seem to win one when nobody thinks we will (@ UCLA last year for example) so who's to say we won't beat Oregon or ASU at home in November, or we can't sneak in to Berkley and pull out a win. That's why they play the games, right? As Beano Cook always says, if the favorties won every week then life would be boring.

In my mind, it's more important that we play well and whatever happens on the scoreboard, happens. If we play really well yet lose a close game, that still will bode well for the rest of the season. Even though the Beavs have struggled recently, Corvallis is still an incredibly difficult place for our Cougs to win, and we haven't won there since 1996. This game is the defining moment of the season, though, not in terms of winning or losing, but, if they come together under adversity and say, rally from a huge deficit only to fall short for example, that could still be ok for the rest of the year. Just keep it all in perspective and remember there is A LOT OF SEASON LEFT AFTER THIS WEEK!

This week's Pac-10 games:

WSU (+2) @ OSU - Cougs 38, OSU 34
UW (+21) @ #20 UCLA - UCLA 33, UW 27
#1 USC (-16) @ #14 ASU - USC 41, ASU 37
Oregon (-7) @ Stanford - Oregon 38, Stanford 20
Arizona (+16) @ Cal - Cal 31, Arizona 19

Two national games:
#13 Notre Dame @ #22 Purdue - Purdue 30, Notre Dame 27
#5 Florida @ #15 Alabama - Alabama 23, Florida 21 Read more ...plus comments

Thursday, September 29, 2005

DB's limping into OSU game

Not good news coming out of practice this week in regards to our DB's. Injuries are mounting, a pretty discouraging sign heading into the conference opener.....

Wally Dada has a sprained knee he hurt in practice a few days ago. He's been noticably limping the last couple of days and has been very limited in practice. That's a BIG concern as many rank him right there with Teems as best cover guy on the team.

Don Turner, the backup at both corner spots, was nursing a sore hammy he strained against Grambling. He finally practiced on Monday, but Tuesday his back flared up during practice, so bad were the spasms that he had to be carted off the field. He didn't practice yesterday, so no idea if he will even play Saturday.

It's getting so thin already that they have moved Lorenzo Bursey, the JC running back/WR they brought in to return kicks, to corner. He's reportedly done OK, but he hasn't faced Pac-10 competition yet obviously and he might be in for a very rude beginning on Saturday! Bursey has been taking the majority of the reps with the first team this week, so the odds are good he'll start on Saturday. I'd expect a lot of safety help over the top, and/or a lot of cover-2 zone to help him out.

It gets worse, though - Ian Bell had a big camp and was expected to play a lot this year, but he's been injured since week one and is struggling on the 3rd team. Tyrone Brackenridge of course is out for the year with grade issues, and that could turn out to be a gigantic loss as the year goes on. Small, skinny white kid named Ryan Kensok, a walk-on from Gonzaga Prep, is moving up the depth chart by default. Finally, linebacker/safety superfrosh Courtney Williams has even been moved to corner this week!

As Cougfan said in the story this week, this isn't good news. Combined with the match-up against Oregon State, a team that passes first, second and third, well, it makes ANY Cougs pretty nervous right about now!

How will Akey compensate? Will we adopt the new Notre Dame, bend-but-don't-break approach by keeping everything in front of them, let them rack up 450 passing yards and several field goals? Or will Akey keep the same approach as always and attack from all angles, forcing Moore into sacks and pressure him into mistakes while stuffing the running game? It's a good question, and frankly I'm glad I'm not the DC this week! You have to figure one way or another, they must absolutely find a pass rush, or else Moore and Hass will completely destroy our secondary, and confidence in the process. Read more ...plus comments

Monday, September 26, 2005

Good read on Brink; Quick look at OSU

First, a good read on Brink from the Spokesman:
http://www.spokesmanreview.com/sports/story.asp?ID=92501


Finally, a really quick look at OSU and where they stand in team stats (in order of importance):

1) Scoring defense - LAST in the Pac-10 at 36.5 PPG. Yes, this is skewed because of the 63 Rick Pitino's kids hung on them over a week ago (just kidding, sort of?). But they have been giving up points, even to Boise State at Reser, who is clearly down this year! That's huge.

2) Pass defense - LAST in the Pac-10 in yards AND, more importantly, a whopping 14 TD passes allowed in 4 games!

3) Total Defense - 2nd to LAST in the Pac-10, giving up 427.5 ypg (UW is last at 432 ypg).

The numbers, however, can be somewhat misleading. First, they have played two extremely strong passing offenses, Louisville on the road in a 9 AM game, and ASU who can throw it with anyone in America. But, there is a huge flaw, and that is they are giving up TD's!

As Charlie Weis said this week in an interview, you're seeing an interesting trend right now with defenses. Before it was the pressure, Chicago Bear-46 D where they put 8 in the box, bring the house and take your chances with man coverage. But you see so many teams spreading the field as well as mobile QB's that can get away from pressure, and suddenly defenses started giving up huge plays. Now, you're seeing teams give up yards these days, both in the NCAA and NFL levels, in a bend-but-don't-break mentality. Keep everything in front of you by dropping the safeties in a deep cover-2. Let them pile up yardage between the 20's, and give up the stuff underneath. The Patriots won 3 of the last 4 Super Bowls with a strong D, but they were never dominating, never ranked #1 in the NFL in defense. They bent but they almost never "broke" when it mattered. He said when teams get in the red zone, that's when Romeo Crennel would turn up the heat by blitzing more from every possible angle, drop up to 8 guys into coverage, you name it!

Classic example is look at ND at UW - UW put up a lot of yards through the air, enough that one might think they could have won that game, yet on the scoreboard it was a blowout, a game which really wasn't in doubt from the 2nd quarter on. Lots of passing numbers, but when push came to shove, ND threw the kitchen sink at them, mixed things up, sometimes dropping 8, sometimes bringing heat, and Stanback didn't know whether to run or throw. That pick he threw in the end zone to kill a drive, you could almost read his mind in that he just didn't know what to do, so he just sort of flipped it right to the nickel back! So, UW was held to 10 points when it really mattered, getting a garbage-time TD when it was 36-10.

The bottom line? Defensive stats are misleading in terms of pure yardage, when you have coaches basically conceding they are going to prefer to give up short stuff in order to protect against the big play! Easier said than done for Notre Dame, where they gave up 44 vs. Michigan State, but that's exactly what you saw vs. UW.

The biggest thing for the Cougs? Get the ball in the end zone, don't just settle for field goals! The Beavs just aren't keeping people from scoring TD's. 14 TD passes already surrendered? With our skill position players, Hill, Bumpus, Bienemann, Jordan, a strong running attack with Harrison, AND a smart kid like Brink to spread the wealth?? Those guys must be licking their chops watching film right about now! The "Chipmunks" truly do miss their DB's like Meuweesen and Browner, two big-time guys from last year.

The early line I've seen so far as Beavs getting 2 points at home, which really, is a slight lean to WSU, knowing that home teams always get 3 points to begin with. I'm not ready to predict this one yet, and hell, we NEVER play well at Corvallis, but the early feel has to be good right now! Read more ...plus comments

Friday, September 23, 2005

Oh, to be Matt Leinart; Hello Tony Bennett!; Plus week 4 picks

First, ESPN.com is running a "Rock Star in Pads" story about Matt Leinart. DUH. Check out the cover pic of the story, pretty much says it all doesn't it??


As one poster at Cougfan.com said, "so when are they going to make a Matt Leinart fantasy camp, where you are the Heisman QB on a scary-good team in LA-LA land where hot chicks wear your jersey everywhere and melt when they see you?" It's a pretty good read:

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?columnist=forde_pat&id=2169979

Tony Bennett will OFFICIALLY take over the WSU hoops program when Dick steps down. No shock there, but they've put it in writing now so it's 100% done. I have to admit I was at least a little concerned he might have been up for other jobs that come open the next year or so, but as Sterk said in the story today, "Tony is building this program." Hey, he looks good in a suit too! Not Matt Leinart-good, but still, good.

http://www.spokesmanreview.com/sports/topstory.asp?ID=92124

Anyway, week 4 picks. I chose 7 games this week, 4 Pac-10 games plus 3 national games of interest. I see a lot of points put up in the PASS-10 this weekend!

#13 CAL (-30) @ NMex St - CAL 52, NMex St 13
#16 Notre Dame (-13.5) @ UW - Rudy's 45, UW 30
#1 USC (-21) @ #24 Oregon - USC 55, Oregon 27
#18 ASU (-7) @ OSU - ASU 38, OSU 20

National games:
#10 Tennessee @ #4 LSU - LSU 23, Tennessee 21
#21 Iowa @ #8 Ohio State - Ohio State 17, Iowa 14
#15 Georgia Tech @ #4 Virginia Tech - VA Tech 23, Ga Tech 17

Read more ...plus comments

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Pac-10 stats - how the Cougs stack up

Interesting stats so far from the quarter-turn of the '05 season. Granted, WE HAVEN'T PLAYED ANYONE YET, blah blah blah, but still, some interesting trends, both individually and as a team.

Team ratings:
OFFENSE:
Cougs are currently 4th in the conference in scoring offense, 47 ppg. USC is an amazing 66.5 PPG, followed by UCLA at 49.3, and ASU at 48.7. Oh yeah, the worst scoring offense? UW at 22.7 PPG.

Cougs are 5th in the conference in passing offense at 276 ypg, but that can be misleading when you consider 2 of our 3 games were completely out of hand in the 3rd quarter, leading to a lot of running the ball. ASU is averaging - AVERAGING - 401 YPG! Look out Beavs.

Cougs are 4th in rushing offense at 219 ypg. Cal is #1 at 264, USC #2 at 234 YPG (in two games, however, Cal has done that in 3 games). Lawson was right on OSU and not being able to run the ball - so far the Beavs are dead-last in rushing offense at (get this) JUST 67.3 YPG! That's 35 yards LESS than the 9th place team, Arizona! That's just plain brutal.

Total offense? ASU is #1 by a hair over USC at 630 YPG (wow, think about that number, imagine averaging 630 yards per game after 3 games??). USC is at 627 ypg, but that's again in two games. But, the Cougs? 3rd in the conference in total offense at 495 YPG. Not too bad. Oregon is right behind the Cougs at 490 YPG. Oh yeah, the worst offense in the Conference? Try Stanford at 304 YPG in two games, however one vs. a I-AA team! Brutal.

DEFENSE:

Cougs stack up EXTREMELY well defensively, at or near the top in many categories (but not in one key category, we'll touch on that in a moment):

Rushing D: Cougs lead the conference, giving up just 74 YPG, only 2 yards per attempt. That can be misleading obviously, as sacks are big in regards to subtracting from rushing yards. Plus all 3 games had the Cougs with large leads, so the opponents were playing some catch-up (38-19 early in the 4th vs. Idaho, 48-7 vs. Nevada in the 3rd, 41-7 vs. Grambling in the 4th). Oregon and Cal are tied for 2nd place with 81 YPG on the ground.

Passing D: Cougs are 3rd in the conference in pass efficiency defense, with a rating of 112.8 (the formula is complicated, but it takes completion %, TD's and int's among other things to get that number). #1 in the conference is Cal at 104.6, followed by Arizona at 106.1.

Total D: Cougs are #1 in the Pac-10 in total D, averaging a total of 285.3 YPG. Cal is the only other Pac-10 team holding a team under 300 YPG (298.3). Everyone else is over 300 YPG. However this number can be VERRRRY misleading. For example, USC is just 7th in the conference in total D, giving up 381 YPG. Why? Well, it might have something to do with being up 42 points in the 3rd quarter! They more or less call off the defensive dogs and the 3rd stringers are playing half the game, so it's easy to expect they will give up yards. I'd rather see the ratings show something like "first string total D" so you get an idea of how the starters are doing, but that will never happen.

A couple more very encouraging (and a bit surprising) stats:
Cougs lead the Pac-10 in sacks, at 16! Second is UCLA and UW, both tied with 10, in 3 games. As much as I've read people questioning the pass-rush, how can they when you see that?
Cougs also lead the the conference in opponent 3rd-down conversion %, at just 26%. You have to like both of those numbers, in that they are getting to the QB in sacks and, probably, some of that pressure is leading to incompletions on 3rd down! Very good thing to think about heading into the PASS-10.

The discouraging team stat? Turnover margin. The Cougs are 9th on the season at -2. That's not good, and really, not characteristic of Akey's defense. Think about 2003 and the havoc the D caused with all those fumbles and INT's. Will that pick up now that conference play is about to start? It makes you wonder if we couldn't get many TO's vs. inferior talent, what will happen when it's conference play?

I guess you could argue that either way. One way to look at it is maybe Akey and company are just keeping things extremely vanilla defensively right now, knowing they can just "out-talent" the teams on their schedule. I mean why show your hand right now? I saw maybe two blitzes at all vs. Grambling, but hey, we know Akey and Doba, and we KNOW the kind of fury they can unleash! I guess I'm not TOO worried about this trend - yet - but it does kind of raise your eyebrows that we have only seen TWO interceptions in THREE games?

By the way, UCLA is #1 at +7 on the year. In fact, right now, they have ZERO turnovers of their own, and 7 takeaways. Pretty impressive.

PLAYERS:

Harrison still leads the conference in rushing yards with 399 and 5 TD's. Reggie Bush is 3rd, but on only 20 carries he's got 211 yards or 10.6 YPC! Wow. Brink is just 7th in passing yards per game at 231, but again, we weren't putting it up with him when it was 48-7! Better things are coming, for sure. Hill is 3rd in receptions per game, 2nd in total receiving yards and first in receiving TD's with 6.

Defensively, Adam Braidwood is tied with Manase Hopoi for first in sacks, with 3.5. Mkristo is 5th with 2 sacks. Combined, Braidwood and Bruce are #1 in the conference as a duo with 5.5. Braidwood has also done well overall, with 2 forced fumbles, #1 in the conference.

In tackles, Derting is leading the team with 6.3 tackles per game, but that's just good for 22nd in the conference. Thing is, Derting hasn't played a whole lot, as the coaches have wisely pulled him in all 3 games when the outcome wasn't in doubt. He played I think 2 series vs. Grambling, and that was it. Things will change there come 10/1!

Eric Frampton is tied for 3rd with total passes defended, with 2 breakups and a pick. Read more ...plus comments

Monday, September 19, 2005

Week 2 picks - plus Doba's quote says it all

First, recap of last week's games:

Rooster went 7-4. Not bad for your first week.
Lawson went 9-2, a strong week.
I somehow went 10-1, missing only on the amazing UC Davis win over Stanford! Best week ever.

Overall, I'm in a slight lead, going 15-3 through the first two weeks for a percentage of 83% (we'll round up by the way). Lawson is right there, 14-4, for 78% (77.7 rounded up). Rooster is 7-4 for 64%.

Even though the Cougs are in a bye, we'll still pick Pac-10 plus a national game for this week. Don't expect much coming from me via the blog this week, lots of work to do plus a bye week is always slow for anything. I think we are all on the same page, we are 3-0 but have no idea how good that 3-0 actually is. Oh, and on the national radar? Forget it. New polls out today, and guess how impressive a 3-0 record is vs. Idaho, Nevada and Grambling St? How about ZERO votes in all polls?? Oh well, it doesn't really matter at this point, and if I was a voter I don't know if I would vote them in either. It's not necessarily the Cougs fault either, but the reality is a ton of middling BCS-conference teams would also be 3-0 with that schedule.

Some good stat stuff, though - Jerome Harrison still leads the Pac-10 in rushing with 399 yards and 5 TD's, averaging 6.1 a carry. Young DeMaundry is still an impressive 6.9 per carry. Brink's #'s look better every week, now at 63% for the season with 9 TD's, 2 picks (both in the 2nd quarter vs. Idaho by the way). Brink is 3rd in the Pac-10 in QB rating. Hill has 6 TD's as we touched on before, already halfway to his season record of 12 from last year. Start up those mock drafts with Hill in the upper-echelon of WR's!

Doba said it best: "You think every run should go for 10 yards and every pass should be a completion," he said, adding that such expectations are unreasonable against scholarship athletes. Division I-AA schools can offer 63 scholarships. Also, consider this - the last time we played a I-AA team, it was Montana at home in 2002. That Pac-10 champion team that beat Heisman-winner Carson Palmer and USC that year? 45-28! So I understand what Doba was saying and why the overall feel of that game wasn't over the top WOW, but in reality, is there REALLY that much difference between a Grambling and a lower-tier BCS team? It's just impossible to know for sure, but I do know this - there are many players on Grambling that are transfers from many BCS teams, including Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, etc. So, to suggest that players on Grambling are players all 119 I-A teams passed on is ridiculous! Maybe in reality, we should be impressed by being 3-0 right now? 3 more wins and we're in a bowl game again, and to me, that's the most important thing about 2005. Get back to a bowl, get on national TV, get those extra 20 practices, get another bowl game to put in the media guide. Read more ...plus comments

Sunday, September 18, 2005

3-0 as expected, but how good are we?


The good:
  1. 48-7
  2. 515 yards of total O
  3. Only 208 total yards allowed, including 11 rushing yards on 37 carries
  4. Harrison another 100+ on the ground (113 yards, 4.9 per carry, 2 TD's)
  5. Brink another strong overall performance (19-for-29, 262 yards, 3 TD's, no picks)
  6. Fire-hydrant Woolridge 100+ for the second week in a row (105, 5.8 per carry)
  7. Jason Hill 2 TD catches for the 3rd game in a row this year (10 for 143, just dominating)
  8. LOTS of youngsters playing LOTS of minutes (that will pay off down the road)
  9. THE BAND KICKED SERIOUS ASS! Best NCAA band ever, worth the tickets alone.
  10. Impressive attendance of over 51,000. It seemed like a good crowd and the noise was pretty decent, not an overwhelming home-field advantage but still plenty loud. Nice that we DOUBLED UW's "home" opener vs. Air Force!?!?

The bad:

Just one thing, really. Not much to complain about in a 48-7 blowout win, but, as Doba said, the team was flat in the second quarter. You could tell he could see this one coming, talking up Grambling all week, repeatedly saying he doesn't want the team to lose their focus, the bye week is staring them in the face, it's a 1-AA opponent, blah blah BLAH!

It felt a heck of a lot like the Idaho game, as we were up 14-0 7 minutes into the first quarter, but then we let up. Brink didn't play so well in the first half, just 8-for-15 for 112 yards. I know the stats say he wasn't sacked, but Rooster was there and he saw it, Brink took some serious shots in that first half. They blitzed a lot, sometimes bringing both safeties and even though Brink made them pay, he took some hits. In the post-game Brink said it was tough in the first half since they hadn't seen tape of them this year, only back to last year, but they adjusted well and blew them out the rest of the way.

Like Doba said, these guys have some athletes, although as Rooster would probably also acknowledge, the Cougs were CLEARLY the superior team in terms of speed and athleticism. That said, the Grambling O and D lines were HUGE! They look big on paper, but in person, they were gigantic! As Rooster said after the game, "they all looked like French from Wildcats (the Goldie Hawn football movie!?), and he was right! Mkristo said it best in describing Jonathan Banks, a 6-8, 360-lb O-tackle: "The guy I was playing against was the biggest human being I've seen in my life." He wasn't kidding. They were HUGE, but alas, awfully slow, thus the 7 sacks.

A few nuggets - Brink and Hill have something special going, even all the way back to the Colorado game last year. They were in the same recruiting class of 2003, and Brink said the time they spent working with each other that first year laid a good foundation. His first TD catch yesterday was just perfect, Brink threw a great ball in the corner of the end zone and Hill elevated and made a great catch, showing just how fantastic his hands really are.

It's amazing also to think that Hill has only been a starter for 14 games in his WSU career, and he already has 18 career TD catches, already 6 in 3 games this year. Oh yeah, he's just 4 TD's away from the school record of 22! The way the Beavs pass D looked vs. Louisville, he might tie that record on 10/1!

Notice that Loren Langley is 100% for the season? 15-for-15 extra points, 5-for-5 field goals. I don't care who you are playing, if you have an accurate kicker that is money inside 40 yards, that could be a huge difference once conference play starts. Look back to the 2002-2003 seasons, Drew Dunning saved several games for us that year (kept us in the Apple cup in '03, basically won the New Mexico game in '03 with 5 FG's, the USC game in 2002, etc). As poor as the kicking game was last year, it's clearly improved this year and will play itself out over the season.

All that said, looking ahead, we're starting to get a better picture of who is good and who isn't in the Pac. Here's the way I see it:

Elite: USC obviously (how about this? Their first 8 plays vs. Arkansas? 4 TD's!)

Bowl teams fighting for 2nd (in order):ASU, CAL, UCLA, Oregon, WSU

The rest: OSU, Arizona, UW, Stanford.

How will things play out for our Cougs? I think it's clear now that the key to the season is going to be the next 3 games. @OSU, then home for Stanford and UCLA. We must win 2 of those 3 games, period, or else bowl hopes could be in serious jeopardy. With the brutal run of 5 games to close the season after that (@Cal, @USC, ASU, Oregon and UW), it's likely we'll be underdogs in at least 4 of those games, and the 5th one at the end of the season, well, I won't even say it!

It's just so hard to know where we are given the quality of the 3 teams we just played. Is the Idaho win worth anything now that they were blown out vs. UW? Is the Nevada blowout on the road worth more now that they beat UNLV - who beat Idaho the week before? Yes it was nice to outgain Grambling by better than 2-to-1 in total yards, but what does that even mean??

Doba said it as did a few players after the game on the radio, but this bye week is coming at a good time. Doba elaborated that a lot of players have papers due later next week, so for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, they will NOT practice. Only studying. Then they'll get after it on Thursday and put in extra time on OSU. So in more ways than one, this is a great time to take a breather. Meanwhile let OSU try and "find themselves" against ASU. If they thought Louisville threw the ball well, wait until they get a load of ASU's passing attack! They could be a seriously down-in-the-dumps team come 10/1.

Read more ...plus comments

Friday, September 16, 2005

Picks recap, plus Football Friday notes

Happy Football Friday!



First of all, how about that 2002 USC @ WSU rebroadcast last night? Boy that WSU team was GOOD! Same with USC and Heisman QB Palmer, a young frosh WR named Mike Williams, just talent everywhere. How we put up over 500 yards of total offense is just amazing for that game. Captain Caveman had a hell of a game, especially in OT. There were moments where with his size and quickness he was virtually unblockable. What a player!

Also, boy, watching tape of Jason Gesser, it's UNBELIEVABLE how bad his arm really was! So many bad, floaty passes. My memory is really fading, because I don't ever remember his arm being that bad. When you look at tape of Alex Brink, there is now NO QUESTION that Brink has the better arm! I talked to Michael last night and we were both just laughing at how bad Gesser's arm really was.

Then again, Gesser gave us this moment:

All-time leading passer in WSU history. So, maybe it's not JUST about arm strength after all?

Speaking of Brink, GREAT read on him in today's Oregonian. Click on the link, and under the first part, where it says College Football, click on "WSU's Brink earns respect":

http://www.oregonlive.com/sports/

Note - I didn't put in the entire link because the line is too long, screwing up the whole blog. Be sure to check it out, though, it's a very good read!

The more I see, the more I read, the more I like!


Lawson, glad you like the new look. It's certainly better than it looked before. I linked up Cougfan, Cougzone and the Spokesman Coug Blog on the right, but if you have other things that should be linked, let me know. I may add the P-I, Times and News Tribune WSU sections to the links.

Here's your one-stop look at all 3 of our picks for this week:

Mine:
Pac-10:Grambling (no line) @ WSU (Seattle) - WSU 38, Grambling 12
Idaho (+14) @ UW - UW 31, Idaho 20
Oregon State (+13 1/2) @ Louisville - Louisville 31, Oregon St 24
Fresno State (+2 1/2) @ Oregon - Oregon 27, FSU 23
Oklahoma (-6 1/2) @ UCLA - UCLA 20, Oklahoma 16
Purdue (-7 1/2) @ Arizona - Purdue 30, Arizona 17
Arkansas (+31) @ USC - USC 44, Arkansas 10
Illinois (-21) @ Cal - CAL 42, Illinois 24
Northwestern (+15) @ ASU - ASU 35, Northwestern 21
UC Davis (no line) @ Stanford - 27, UC Davis 3
National:#5 Tennessee @ #6 Florida - Florida, 28-27

Lawson:
Grambling (no line) @ WSU (Seattle) - WSU 63, Grambling 24
Idaho (+14) @ UW - UW 41, Idaho 27
Oregon State (+13 1/2) @ Louisville - Louisville 45, Oregon St 31
Fresno State (+2 1/2) @ Oregon - Oregon 35, FSU 24
Oklahoma (-6 1/2) @ UCLA - Okey 28 UCLA 24
Purdue (-7 1/2) @ Arizona - Purdue 35, Arizona 7
Arkansas (+31) @ USC - USC 66, Arkansas 17
Illinois (-21) @ Cal - CAL 41, Illinois 13
Northwestern (+15) @ ASU - ASU 38, Northwestern 17
UC Davis (no line) @ Stanford - 49, UC Davis
National: #5 Tennessee @ #6 Florida - Florida, 28 Tennessee 17 (how in the hell did Fulmer win a National Championship?)

Rooster:
WSU 44 Grambling STATE 21
Idaho 28 UW 24
Louisville 21 OSU 17
Oregon 42 FSU 20
Oklahoma 32 UCLA 27
Purdue 28 'Zona 6
USC 55 Arkansas 10
Cal 42 Illini 9
ASU 38 Northwestern 17
Stanford 28 UC Davis 10
Tennessee 21 Florida 20
I have two more picks:
Attendance at UW-Idaho 56,324
Attendance at WSU-GSU 40,432

Rooster, I think you are selling the Cougs attendance short - right now there are 44,000 seats reported sold (as of Thursday night, really) and they should see some more walk-up. I still don't have tickets but I plan on walking up tomorrow afternoon with Conor, so that's two more tight there! Might we approach 50,000? OR, how about this - might we TOP UW IN THEIR OWN TOWN!?!? Fingers crossed.....

Other notes - Bumpus has a sore ankle, actually hurt it vs. Nevada on his first punt return, but he should be ok. Gametime decision, but with Grambling, plus a bye week looming next week, don't be shocked if he doesn't go. Bursey would fill in returning punts. Also, Husain Abdullah is returning to the starting lineup, so he's healthy. Derting has been battling the flu, even getting an IV, but they think he'll be fine. Even Cody Boyd will suit up and will probably see action, so things sound OK health-wise.

There will be 50 high school players at the game on Saturday, but in a weird rule, the Coug coaches can't speak to them! Why? Well, it's not actually considered a "home" game for the Cougs. If you play a game over 75 miles from your campus, the game is considered an away game per the NCAA. That way it prevents the Cougs to move a game to, say, Texas Stadium in Dallas and just hold an open house for every recruit in the state to come down and mix-n-mingle with the coaching staff.

JC All-American running back JT Diederichs, a former Coug signee from 2003, has set an official visit to WSU in early December. JT has had the Cougs on his radar ever since he failed to qualify, and has a great chance to walk in and play next year given Harrison will be done, so the need will be there at RB (yes, I like DeMaundry just like you do, but you still need a couple of guys that can get it done back there). Keauntea Bankhead, friend of JT and a UW signee (and defensive player of the year his senior year at Ballard) who last year announced he would go to UW, now says "all options are open" even though he says he wants to go to WSU. Stay tuned there, he's eligible for 2007 if he gets his AA degree.

Read more ...plus comments

Thursday, September 15, 2005

"Little birdie" updates from yesterday, plus weekly picks

Our good friend and source sat down with a certain AD the other day and gave me some good nuggets of info. A quick recap:

1) The stadium renovation is a bit behind what fans want. Right now it's set to begin in Nov/Dec of '07, not '06. It would be ready by kickoff for the '08 season. That's provided we have $25-$30 million in donations by then, certainly not a slam-dunk but so far things are very positive. As touched on before, the idea is for a second deck on both the student and reserved sides of the field, leaving the endzones virtually untouched except for basic upgrades.

2) Seattle games in the future will be as follows: Baylor in '06, San Diego State in '07, and, PROBABLY Ohio State in '09.

3) There is a serious bid from CBS right now to move the WSU-Auburn game off ESPN and on to CBS for a prime-time matchup next year. So serious in that CBS is ready to DOUBLE ESPN's offer for the game! Turns out ESPN would pay the Cougs $250,000, and Auburn is already on the line for a newly-negotiated sum of $850K! CBS is saying they will pay $500 to even $550K to broadcast it next year! So no matter what, we'll get between about $1.1 to $1.4 MILLION just to play Auburn next year. It makes a lot of sense, even if it means a loss.

4) Oregon State game is going to be on TV. Not officially scheduled yet but it will be announced shortly.

5) Believe it or not, there are talks ongoing right now about a WSU Cougar sports CHANNEL! All Coug sports would be on the channel. I didn't get too many details, but the feel is it will happen.

6) 35K tickets as of Monday are sold for the Seattle game, and the estimates for walk-up are about 10K. Grambling's band has perfomances Thursday and Friday of this week to hype the game and their appearance at both halftime and after the game, so you never know on the walk-up.

Other stuff - Agree that Doba is talking up Grambling, but that's for their own benefit. The stories yesterday per Cougfan had many players saying there is no way they will overlook this one. Plus a lot of the players have said they have known about Grambling and their history. Since the game is in Seattle and there will be 40 - 45K people there, they probably won't have too much trouble getting up for this one.

Aaron Johnson is battling a bruised knee. Not good news really when you consider Ropati is out until mid-October. Then again, play about a half this week, and then sit down for the next two weeks thinking about Oregon State and he'll be ready to go.

FINALLY, picks from week two recap and standings:

Michael and I both went 5-2. Lawson's picks (winners in Crimson):

CAL
Boise St
Oregon
Navy
Arizona
UCLA
Cougs

My picks:
UW
Oregon State
Oregon
Navy
Arizona
UCLA
Cougs

This week, we'll go Pac-10 plus the "national" game of the week. Picks are due Friday night. Rooster, jump right in! You don't even have to explain anything, just pick away. Here's the games, and my picks:

Pac-10:
Grambling (no line) @ WSU (Seattle) - WSU 38, Grambling 12
Idaho (+14) @ UW - UW 31, Idaho 20
Oregon State (+13 1/2) @ Louisville - Louisville 31, Oregon St 24
Fresno State (+2 1/2) @ Oregon - Oregon 27, FSU 23
Oklahoma (-6 1/2) @ UCLA - UCLA 20, Oklahoma 16
Purdue (-7 1/2) @ Arizona - Purdue 30, Arizona 17
Arkansas (+31) @ USC - USC 44, Arkansas 10
Illinois (-21) @ Cal - CAL 42, Illinois 24
Northwestern (+15) @ ASU - ASU 35, Northwestern 21
UC Davis (no line) @ Stanford - 27, UC Davis 3

National:
#5 Tennessee @ #6 Florida - Florida, 28-27 Read more ...plus comments

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Cougs land all-state tackle with Cougar blood


The Cougs got a verbal commitment from an All-State O-tackle, Grady Maxwell, from Tacoma. The story hasn't broken yet on Cougfan.com, but it did break on Scout.com as he announced late last night. He chose the Cougs over Stanford, Oregon, Cal and UW.

A quick bio on Maxwell - big-time talent. Big kid, 6-2, 315 and pretty athletic to boot. Per his coach: "Grady has great speed. He's a great left tackle, outstanding both in run and pass blocking and has great feet -- exceptionally quick feet."

He's got Cougar blood, too, as he's cousins with Marcus Trufant. He continues the Curtis High School pipeline for the Cougs. Some of the more notable Curtis alumni who have suited up for the crimson and gray include: Torey Hunter, CJ Davis, Virgil Williams, Singor Mobley, Deron Pointer and of course, Mike Levenseller, who was a phenomenal defensive back and wide receiver. Levenseller apparently still holds the SPSL season record with 16 interceptions. He's smart, too, already has a qualifying SAT score but wants to re-take it anyway. He had a great camp this summer at WSU and was given an offer on the spot (along with commit Andy Mattingly of Mead).

His relationship with Trufant is a big factor in his life. Per a story earlier this year:

PART OF A very close extended family, Trufant spends much of his free time with Maxwell -- the first night we tried to reach him we ended up talking to Grady Sr. for a bit as the younger Grady was over at the Seahawk cornerback's home. Maxwell says Trufant has helped him immeasurably both on and off the field, regularly calling to check on how he's doing school-wise, talking football and attending as many of Curtis' games as his schedule allows. "He's always encouraging me," said Maxwell of the Seahawks No. 1 draft choice (11th pick overall) in 2003. "He's always supported me as much as anyone possibly can, (despite the fact) he's really busy. He's come to my games whenever he can." Trufant's also introduced him to Seattle teammates such as Walter Jones, oft-mentioned as the top left tackle in the NFL. The two lineman have talked about hard work, what college is like and the mental part of the game and it's importance to an offensive lineman.

Funny note - one home game during Trufant's career, one of the WSU staff members spotted Maxwell and thought he was a recruit on a visit that weekend. Maxwell, who has always been big for his age group, had to tell the coach he was only in the 7th grade(!).

Great get Cougs! Read more ...plus comments

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

2005 class - Best "instant impact" ever at WSU?


Great read on the 2005 class and how many of those kids are already playing THIS year. At least double the amount of kids are actually seeing playing time, with (get this) NINE true frosh and 3 JC's playing already! I won't post the article word for word as it's a premium deal, but I'll highlight it here:

1) The Cougars have never played as many rookies to start a season as they have this year. So far, 12 players total signed for the '05 class have played.

2) Arkelon Hall, who hasn't played (and absolutely won't this year) already won the Offensive Scout Team award for the Nevada game. He's really looking good and they are excited about his future!


3) Ahmu is making the most impact of any frosh right now, starting at D-tackle and while overwhelmed vs. Idaho, responded much better vs. Nevada, including his first NCAA sack. It looks to be just a matter of time before he's wreaking havoc on a regular basis. Hopefully he can do more than just hold the fort until Ropati returns, hopefully he'll assume a regular role as being the first D-tackle off the bench to help keep the starters fresh.


4) DeWayne Patterson played really well vs. Idaho and fits in very well as the now-backup safety behind Abdullah, as well as on all kickoff and punt converages (he forced the fumble vs. Idaho on the first kickoff of the season). He also had a sack among his 5 tackles vs. Idaho.

5) Lorenzo Bursey and Lance Broadus are the two other JC transfers who already are in the mix. Doba said last week that the kickoff return team needs to get a few things ironed out because Bursey looks ready to break one. Doba also mentioned Broadus, who sprained the AC joint in his shoulder against Nevada, has some weight to gain but he sees him becoming a definite plus for the Cougs providing a speed rush off the end. Broadus's size might indicate linebacker rather than defensive end at most schools, but most schools don't have the trio of true freshmen the Cougs do at LB.

6) Courtney Williams was all over the field against the Vandals, just as he was during the WSU fall camp.The speed merchant had five special teams tackles on his way to earning the Assassin and Game Breaker weekly awards, and was nominated for Pac-10 special teams player of the week.Opponents, as evidenced by Nevada in Week Two, will put a big red X on him the rest of the way but with his speed -- his 47.28 over 400-meters was at one point the nation's fifth-best among high schoolers earlier this year -- WSU's special teams looks to have received an immediate upgrade.


7) Oh those young LB's! Linebackers Cory Evans (6-2, 215), Jason Stripling (6-0, 215) and Greg Trent (5-10, 230) have the coaches very excited about what the future holds at Washington State -- the triumvirate already holds the No. 2 spots on the depth chart. Ferocious hitters, they all have speed to thrill. Linebackers coach Leon Burtnett said the true freshmen have things to learn, but they're better by far than any group of freshmen 'backers he's had in his three years on the Palouse.Trent led all first year players with four tackles against Nevada -- all solo. Evans had three and Stripling added one of his own. Oh yeah, Trent LIVES in the weight room. He looks like he means business??

8) Demaundry Woolridge with his 15 carries for 133 yards, including 70 on the one carry and his first TD (we actually scored a TD in a goal-line situation? Amazing!). Doba said Tuesday afternoon that Woolridge could remain the No. 2 running back even after Kevin McCall returns from injury. With speed, power and fearlessness, Woolridge's crimson future looks bright indeed.

Others mentioned are Brandon Gibson, the 6-1, 195 lb kid who had his first NCAA TD vs. Nevada and has been doing a serious Jason Hill impression all through camp this fall (and many believe Gibson will turn out to be the best player in the class); Michael Willis, the 6-3, 220lb monster safety who hit Marty Martin so hard in a scrimmage that some observers said it's one of the most brutal hits they've ever seen and were amazed Martin got up, albeit dazed and confused!

MAKE NO MISTAKE, the speed and talent in this class looks to provide immediate benefits this season. But over the long haul, just wait till this group gets some time under their belts. Read more ...plus comments

Friday, September 09, 2005

Weekly picks - Week 1 (really week two)

Good morning boys. I was without internet access for the last 48 hours so I'm only now posting the games plus the picks. Roost, VERY happy to see your comments! Please jump in at all times. And, yes my posts and long and rambling, but I'll try and cut them down. I've been on vacation the last two weeks so I have time to post garbage, you know? :)

Agree on Lawson, sans shirt. It's time Michael! Come on up! Julian would have a blast, he and Conor can hang on the beach and cruise for chicks, but Rooster's own Lucy is just a little too young. :) Last time I saw Lawson shirtless was on the sun deck, with the great chest hair starter kit.

Here's this week's games:

1) #16 CAL (-8) @ UW:

UW is better, I have no doubt after watching some of the rebroadcast last week. Then again, it was a small, light Air Force team coming off a losing season last year, so how much of a barometer was it? The funniest thing?? UW drew 26,000 for a Seattle game, their opener in the Willingham ERA on a Saturday. The Cougs drew 28,000 for Idaho on a Thursday! FACE! :)
Anywho, the line has been moving down steadily, opening at 10, now at 8, will probably be 7 by kickoff. I know I foolishly called UW wins last year when I knew deep down they really were that terrible, but I have a weird feeling on this one.

UW wins it, 30-27. Cal is just too unsettled at the most important position on the field(QB), they will put 8 in the box to stuff Marshawn Lynch, and force Ayoob to beat them. He won't. Their D has a lot of new faces as well, and I think they'll have a hell of a time stopping the UW running game. The best thing though will be the 25,000 no-shows, as they are projected to have around 50,000 fans at the game! Even better, right now they have 25,000 tickets available for Notre Dame! I LOVE it, and will unabashedly enjoy it while it lasts!

2) #5 LSU @ #15 ASU(-1)
Wow what a tough one to call, for incredibly obvious reasons. I almost think we shouldn't even count this game, in fact, I'm going to say that we won't count this game for this year (Lawson, I know you are high pin and all, so if you want to pull rank, go for it!). I'll say ASU wins by 3, but I really have NO IDEA.

3) Boise State @ Oregon State (-3 1/2)
Just like the Beavs last year, Boise State is going to get DRILLED in this one. Remember, the Beavs made that SEC trip to LSU last year, lost in the humidity, then limped into Boise and were embarrassed on ESPN. Something else to consider? The Donkeys have won ONE game against a Pac-10 team in their history, vs. the Beavs last year. It will not happen again. Beavs, 34-24.

4) Montana @ Oregon(no line)
The Ducks are absolutely loaded offensively. They'll put up 35 at the half and cruise from there. Did I mention I'm REALLY high on Oregon this year, as much as that hurts to write that? Ducks, 56-13.

5) Stanford (-3) @ Navy
Like everyone else, it's pretty clear Stanford will fight to stay out of the cellar this year. New coach, new system, on the road, etc, spells trouble. I'm calling Navy, 31-24.

6) Northern AZ @ Arizona (no line)
Another no line game with a pretty big mismatch. I caught about 1/2 the Arizona game last Friday night from Priest Lake Marina, and they held their own against Utah. Obviously the Mildcats have improved and they will steamroll their neighbors to the north, 40-17.

7) Rice @ UCLA(-24)
UCLA is another sleeper this year. Their offensive talent is staggering, at least on paper, and they always seem to play well early. 24 points is big, but Rice is, well, not good. Still, it is an option attack, something you never see in the Pac-10, so that's got to count for something. UCLA 41, Rice 10.

FINALLY, 8) Cougs (-10) @ Nevada
Nevada's opener with a brand new scheme. Normally I'd think that would be trouble, but Nevada has a pretty good QB in Rowe and over 150 catches from last year between their two starting receivers. Flowers is the the key, 91 catches last year is a HELL of a lot. Are the DB's up to the task?

I think we'll move the ball, maybe not at will, but I think Brink will lead a balanced attack and we'll put up about 450+ yards in total offense. Take out that lousy 2nd quarter on all aspects of the game last week and we would have run away with that game. Think of last year as the last scrimmage, now tonight is the real thing. We'll be ready.

Somewhat like New Mexico last year, this won't be easy. They are only supposed to have about 25,000 in attendance, so I don't see a huge home-field advantage, but still, it's on the road. I will be holding my breath on punt and kickoff coverage units, with so many new kids playing on the road for the first time, well, it might set up for some big plays.

The biggest thing? The pass coverage and even bigger, the pass rush. They must get pressure up front, and how will they respond again without Ropati? We didn't get many sacks last week, and as Rooster mentioned, we at times were pushed around by the Vandals. But there really was some decent pressure on passing downs. Mkristo seems to be unblockable at times, but he still has to get more consistent. I have a feeling he takes plays off, but I'm also sure a lot of d-lineman that play every snap don't go 100% every time! There are rumblings that on 3rd downs they'll move Braidwood inside to d-tackle and bring in a speedy pass-rusher, like newcomer Lance Broadus who we stole away under the radar from the Ducks. Doba touched on this on his radio show, that they need more speed from the outside, so I would expect we'll see that on more than a few occasions. Hopefully it means more pressure, more sacks, more bad throws, etc.

Cougs win this one, but in a bit of a disappointing track meet that will be too close for comfort. We'll have more questions than answers after this one on the defensive side of the ball.

Cougs 44, Nevada 35. Read more ...plus comments

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Updates, updates, updates

Good to be back! Loved the week at the most beautiful lake place in America, Hill's Resort at Priest Lake. Rooster, if you are reading this (do you still read this?) you know what I'm talking about. We're thinking of teaming up with Talarico's next year and going up the same week as they are, and maybe you guys too? We'll figure it out, but it could be a great time. Lawson, a week up in Idaho on the beach is a lot of fun with the family, any interest for next summer???

www.hillsresort.com


On to other stuff:

1) Cougs get a steak-eater commit up front, and he's no dummy:

Micah Hannam, 6-5, 265 o-lineman from Gig Harbor committed to the Cougs last week. Hannam chose WSU over heavy interest from Cal, Washington and Stanford. All invited him for official visits, but he said he knew WSU was "right." He had also heard from most of the Pac-10, Northwestern, Utah, Nebraska and some Ivy League schools. Hannam has started since he was a sophomore, going up against some of the best the state had to offer including freshman Cougar OL Kenny Alfred. Hannam was named second team all-league by The Seattle Times last season, despite Peninsula struggling through a 1-9 record.He had an exceptional four-day camp at WSU back in June, taking home co-MVP honors for offensive lineman.He has a frame that will support added strength and muscle, and he’s attacking the weight room this offseason, recently breaking his own power clean mark at Peninsula with a lift of 320 pounds.Along with a quick pair of feet, he’s a cerebral player out on the gridiron, something Yarno covets in an offensive lineman. Those smarts certainly also extend to the classroom, where Hannam projects as a full qualifier with a 3.96 GPA and an SAT score of 1790 (out of the new 2400 scale).

A solid engineering program was critical to Hannam's decision in choosing Washington State. He said while he loves football, education is the most important consideration.“I like building things,” says Hannam. “And I like physics…I want to get a scholarship so I can go to college, I don’t want to go to college just so I can play football,” he said.

Currently he has a 1-star rating, but that doesn't mean he's horrible. It just means that he hasn't been fully evaluated yet, but will soon. He's been on the Cougs radar since February.

2) I like Brink, and today, more than ever! Here's why:

17 of 29 for 230 yards and 3 TD's and 2 int's isn't the greatest line in the world, but when you consider at least 4 of those passes were flat-out drops, including two TD's, well, it makes you wonder what things could have looked like. Also, he was a lousy 8-for-18 at the half, so, doing the math, that's 9-for-11 in the second half. He shook off the bad second quarter and threw some terrific balls in the second half, including both TD's to Hill that were ON THE MONEY. You have to flat-out love that he recovered so well, and didn't feel sorry for himself and pout. He made whatever adjustments he needed to make at the half, and came out hot. Remember the Colorado game last year? What was the biggest thing that Rosie and Levy said last year? Swogger was feeling sorry for himself, was complaining about the drops, etc. I don't want to trash Swoggs, he's a good kid and has a great arm, but there is a difference here.

In the bigger picture? Think about this in regards to Brink's overall improvement:

In his last 3 starts of 2004, Brink went 52 for 88, at 59.1 percent, with 661 yards and 4 TD's and 1 INT. The Cougs were 2-1 in those 3 starts, with the loss coming at ASU in which the team was overmatched in nearly every phase of the game. Combined with the first start of 2005, suddenly Brink looks like this:

69 for 117 (58.9%) for 891 yards, 7 TD's and 3 INT. The Cougs are 3-1 in his last 4 starts.

Sure, the yards aren't too huge over a 4-game span. TD's are nice and all that, but the biggest thing of Brink's stats in the last 4 games?? The completion percentage of basically 59%. On the surface it's nice, but it doesn't seem all that great, right? Well, wrong. In the HISTORY OF WSU FOOTBALL (get this), Brink's 59% completion rate would be 2nd ALL-TIME! Think about that - 59% would be only behind Rosie's 60.1%. The most productive QB in WSU history in terms of passing yards, TD's, etc, Gesser, his best season ever? 58%.

Consider also the lousy start Brink got off to last year vs. both the Beavs and USC, well, he has really improved in a very short time. In fact last week was only Brink's 6th career start, so he is really still a pup! He's a bigger, stronger pup than he was last year, but he's still learning.

The best thing to think about is not only the improvement, but remember we have talked about how traditionally in this offense it takes a QB at least a full season of "the real thing" before the QB actually gets it? That sets up nicely for the OSU game, as that would be 8 starts under his belt plus other playing opportunities last year so it's almost a full season by then. Plus he has a chance at redemption for what happened in his first start last year (15-for-41 for 201 yards in a bad loss, back in the homeland, just yuck). On the other side, look at Swogger's 6 starts from last year - 47% passing is pretty lousy, even with a lot of drops that's not good, and as Michael has said, in an offense where the short pass sets up the run, the 59% is crucial to moving the team. Today I am more convinced than ever that this is Alex Brink's team, and barring injury, the short-lived Swogger era is officially over.

3) In watching the video highlights over on the official site, I'm feeling better about the Idaho game. The final margin of 12 points isn't too exciting, but remember, for most of the 4th it was a 38-19 blowout and as Doba said, his entire 2nd string on D and most on O got to play an entire quarter, which will help down the line as injuries start to show up. Further, the talent level of Idaho has improved greatly in just 1 year. Again, as Doba said, they are bigger and stronger and faster than they were a year ago. Holt hit the JC ranks hard in recruiting and there were a lot of new faces.

The best news though? We are SO BIG PLAY it's amazing! Harrison proved it last year, but every time he touches the ball he has a chance to take it to the house. Hill is a homerun threat on every deep ball. Bumpus can turn a 5-yard slant into a 25-yard gain, plus you have to hold your breath on every punt return (fumble or TD??). The weapons on this team, offensively, to bottom, might be the most explosive in team history. I'm very serious in saying that! The season has a long way to go, and 1997's offense was scary with the fab 5 plus Michael Black and Leaf throwing 34 TD's in 11 games, but this team's skill positions are every bit as big play as 1997.

Also, really, what does WSU really have to gain in playing Idaho?? They are our friends across the border, and we really don't want to beat their brains in. Sure, they want to beat us, but they are friends too (given that they refused to send Nevada game film is great!). Do you think the Coug players get sky-high to drill them? I think deep down they just look at it as a glorified scrimmage, where they know no matter what they will absolutely win the game, and it's a chance to get the bugs out in a glorified dress-rehearsel for the rest of the season. Think of the sloppy play of guys like Hill, who never had a drops problem last year but in this game, geez! That's all mental. The intensity wasn't really there either on defense, but that will change. On the bright side, they did out-gain them 430+ to 260+ in total yards, so that's a nice difference.

Finally, think big-picture here. In years past, we've looked great against Idaho (49-8 last year, up 42-0 in the 3rd quarter) and had a bad season (5-6), yet in 2003, we struggled against them before putting them away (10-0 at the half, 25-0 final score) and went on to win 10 games and beat the #4 team in the nation in the Holiday bowl! So you just cannot get too high or too low over a win over Idaho early in the year, as it really doesn't tell us a whole lot about what to expect.

Just think, we could be Oklahoma right now, already putting in their hotshot QB recruit, Bomar, after a disaster upset loss at home. Tennessee has been picked to play in the Rose Bowl yet they had to hang on 17-10 over UAB! Auburn scheduled a middle-of-the-road BCS team, Georgia Tech, and LOST AT HOME! UW had a 17-6 lead and Air Force buried on their own 1-yard line in the 4th quarter, yet let up and the Falcons came back to break their hearts. See, it really could be worse!

4) For the rest of year? I am in the 8-3/7-4 mold right now, but to me, this week's game holds the keys to the season. IF Brink comes out strong, Harrison gets his 100+ and the D plays well, we're set for 8-3 at least (4-4 in conference). If we lose this game? The pressure will increase greatly, not for Grambling obviously, but that OSU game becomes a must-win! I'm siding with Doba and feeling that 2006 will be a very special 9/10 win team next year, but I think this year, the focus must be to get back to a bowl game, period.

Think about the rest of the schedule - right now, as it was in the preseason, it's obvious that USC is still a monster. Plus, I also believe that ASU and Oregon are in a fight for second place, clearly better than our beloved Cougs, and I even give the Ducks a legit shot at beating USC at Autzen. (Then again, watching Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, WOW. Leinart is so frickin' good it's staggering, and those WR's will all play on Sundays. Sporting News ran a story that speculates that after Leinart wins the Heisman for the 2nd time and national title for the 3rd time in a row, he will not only go down as the greatest NCAA QB in the modern era, he might be considered the greatest NCAA player of all-time! If he's not the greatest, he is certainly right there.)

Being realistic, even though we get the Devils and Ducks in Pullman, well, I'm calling losses in both of those games. I know, the games are in November and the crowd will be jacked up, etc, but those teams are just better than us. Oregon is sick offensively, I mean Clemens is becoming one hell of a QB, plus their weapons are just amazing. By the way, a kid that had 10 catches for them vs. Houston? James Finley. Why does that name ring a bell? He's a kid we wrote about a few months ago that was down to WSU and Oregon after he failed to qualify at USC last year, and chose the Ducks at the last minute. BIG-TIME talent and we will regret not getting him. Oh yeah, the kid that we were drooling over, J-Stewart? 5 carries, 47 yards, and as shown on ESPN, he had one carry where he had 25 yards AFTER CONTACT where he literally had 3 guys hanging on to him for 20 yards! DAMN IT DAMON! :)

Plus the USC loss, that's 3 L's I'm putting in ink. Then think about road games at Corvallis, where we haven't won since 1996, at Cal which is really hard to call today, and at Seattle, where like it or not, UW is going to probably win 5 games, at least!?!? Obviously we have a long way to go, but man, it looks like it's going to be a long, tough season.

I'll post the games of the week with my picks tomorrow. Lawson or Rooster, just respond in comments your picks and we'll go from there. Read more ...plus comments