I went with the picture today to show some simultaneous pain and frustration at this season. I mean getting nailed in the groin by a football both hurts, and is frustrating! But really, the old man fits Doba. Oh, and there's a football in the picture, so what the heck.
Today's Football Friday theme is where the hell is the running game? I wrote about it at AOL today, which will be available later, but the bottom line is this:
- Since the beginning of 2006, we are 6-3 when we've cracked 100 net yards rushing in a game. When held under 100 yards rushing? Try 2-8. That's no fluke.
- Our 108.6 rushing yards per game average right now is the worst over the last 10 years. In fact, the second-worst mark is 1999, at 114 yards per game. Those were Poop Island years.
- UCLA only gives up 2.5 yards per carry and a conference-low 3 rushing TD's on the season. They held Cal, one of the top running teams in the conference, to just 67 yards on 30 carries last week.
It's an ugly combo this week. Get Brink in 2nd or 3rd and forever, and you have our offense right where you want it. UCLA forced 4 turnovers against Cal's offense last week, all the while shutting down their primary weapon, the running game.
But call me crazy, I don't know what it is, but Brinkhater agrees with me via voicemail - for some reason we're going to play well this week. Maybe it's the bye week and we're pretty healthy, including Gibson, our #1 playmaker. Maybe it's the up-and-down Bruins and how they can beat Cal one week, but lose to the likes of Notre Dame or fall flat on their faces, 44-6 style, at Utah. Maybe most of all it's that Andy Mattingly and the defense have to be delighted that they'll see a gimpy QB in Cowan in a pro-set or one-back offense, a similar approach that we saw out of ASU. An approach that led to one of our best showings of the season on defense. In other words, this ain't Oregon or even Arizona's spread shotgun offense that ate us alive. This is a QB under center that we will attack, attack, and attack some more. I would wager that we'll see nearly 50% blitzes from the linebackers this week, and they will try to chase down Cowan and stuff the run, and we'll take our chances.
Maybe more than anything else, we're due to put a scare into somebody. We've done well against UCLA in recent years, and I think that trend will continue. I heard UCLA d-tackle Kevin Brown on the radio this week, and he said, to a man, they HATE COMING TO PULLMAN and it's the worst road trip imaginable coming from LA. So you know they don't want to go up there anyway. And they are talking the talk of "no letdowns this week", but sometimes you hear that out of college kids and what happens? They come out flat as a pancake anyway. They are kids, after all. After a huge home win over Cal and the back-slapping that's been going on down in LA after the 4-0 Pac-10 start, you know those guys are feeling pretty good about themselves. They look really, really vulnerable to me.
But in the end, however, I am going to take the easy way out and go with a UCLA win. But it's going to be a nailbiter, and only a series of running-game failures and a big special teams mistake will be our undoing. I'm going 24-20, UCLA.
AZ 27, UW 24 - Arizona is a complete mess. But weren't they a mess last year when they came up north and ruined our season? Weird feeling on this one too, but UW was so terrible defensively last week that I don't know if they'll be able to turn it around so quickly. They are sure talking like they are thrilled to see Arizona coming to town, but I think that Husky defense is shell-shocked. How could they have confidence they could stop anyone right now after one of the worst performances in school history last week? Meanwhile Locker's 4 TD's were nice, but 12-for-31 through the air?? He still has the lowest completion percentage in the conference, and that's not a one or two-game trend.
Oregon State 33, Stanford 17 - Stanford is beaten up, losing another running back this week for the season. Oregon State has one of the best rushing defenses in the nation, and without a running game Stanford is doomed on the road.
ASU 34, Cal 30 - Even though ASU lost Torain, I still like Dennis the liar and Rudy at home. ASU is always tough as nails in Tempe. I also think Cal is now officially reeling without a healthy Longshore. Watching them last week, they look nothing like the team that sprinted by Tennessee earlier in the season. They'll score some points on ASU, but the Sun Devils keep things rolling.
Finally, the whopper - USC 32, Oregon 28 - This is just the type of game that USC lives for. They love the idea that people are doubting on them. Carroll will have their focus on laser-beam levels this week. I see a very similar game that we saw with Cal and Oregon earlier this year. USC has the size, strength and experience on defense to keep Dixon and Stewart under control. Oregon's really beat up on offense right now, losing WR's Cameron Colvin, Brian Paysinger and backup RB Jeremiah Johnson. That's too much firepower against a team like USC, and it will catch up to them this week. In the end, the Trojans will simply wait for the inevitable mistakes out of Dixon when he starts forcing things that aren't there. Don't believe me? Go watch the 4th quarter of Oregon and Cal and those two gigantic picks from Dixon.
Enjoy the weekend, and GO COUGS!