Greetings Cougar Nation. Happy Football Friday, Week Five Style.
Or is it?
Seems to Brinkhater that we enter the near halfway point of the season almost like it was Week One.
I mean, for starters, we have Ocho Rojo making his first career start.
We also have an offensive line that's still very much in development.
We also have our first real game (against a real opponent) with a defense that has some new faces at safety along with a slightly different set than the straight 4-3 we saw previously.
Its new, new, new, new all over the place.
As for our opponent this week, well, Hawk has chronicled the Quack pretty well. Oregon's really good and on any given Saturday can be a serious offensive juggernaut.
That said, with THEIR quarterback situation being the way it is right now, it is also entirely possible that they could show up as a jugger-NOT on any given Saturday--as they showed in last week's hapless performance (for the first three quarters) against the Blue Turf Smurfs.
What we do know about Oregon is that they are loaded at the skill positions, have a fantastic offensive line, and in my book, boast the second best defense in the conference.
Brinkhater thinks that the Quack are going to score early and often in this one. That said, this is still a game to watch because even though the odds are long, there is a chance that this could be a game decided in the 4th.
For one, while we should all expect that Oregon is going to run rough-shot over us, their inexperience at Quarterback could result in some serious red-zone woes. In short, we could give up a ton of yards in this game on the ground, but give up a host of fields goals a la first part of the Clay Bennett State game.
OR, the inexperience at QB could result in a couple of early picks in the red zone that could keep us in it and change the complexion of the contest as the game goes on...
Of course, any red zone woes by the Quack could be rendered moot (OR NOT) depending on the play of OUR offense. And, while I am sure that many of you are concerned with how Marshall will play this weekend, I would urge all of us to focus more narrowly on the play of our offensive line.
Remember: in a first start guiding any offense let alone one as complex as ours, you can EXPECT that #8 is going to make some serious mistakes.
What is questionable is whether or not he is also going to make some PLAYS in spite of those mistakes. And that, dear friends, will be determine by the O-Line.
Oregon is going to try to make Marshall beat us early in this game. So, if the O-Line gives him time, this COULD BE A GOOD BALL GAME!
Prediction: I am hoping that #8 improves as the game goes on and doesn't get hurt.
I think he will improve.
And I think he will escape without injury which will be the moral victory we get from this game.
That said, I don't trust the play of our line against this team, this week. And I think it will cost us dearly in our ability to sustain any drives (but if they play well, this game will be HELL for Quack fans).
In addition, the injuries to Stripling (the new Mullennix?) and especially the loss of Evans is going to make slowing the Quack down too monumental a task for our boys.
Quack cruise and send Brinkhater's streak into an unimpressive 18th week:
Quack 41 Cougs 16
Washington 31 Stanford 17 Jake the Snake runs for 200 in this MUST WIN game. Lose and the Huskies may be set up as the favorite for the cellar of the WAC-10.
CAL 55 CSU 17. Colorado State scored 6 points in the final 1:30 to beat Sacramento State by 3 points two weeks ago. CAL will murder them.
USC 63 Oregon State 21. Pete usually doesn't run up scores against conference opponents, but with no other WAC-10 teams in the Top 25, he may have to.
Fresno State 34 UCLA 10. Bruins will make a statement of their own that they may be worthy of last in the WAC-10.
And the Big One:
Alabama 27 Georgia 24. Upset alert, but everyone should know that Nick Saban can flat out fricking coach.
Enjoy the games, Go Cougs, and Vamos Ocho Rojo!!!!!!
Mmm, quack attack. It's Duck week, and is it just me or has it flown by? And hasn't it been pretty tame in terms of the duck trolls who always seem to drop by with something uplifting for Cougar nation? I guess the loss to the Boise Staters has them down in the dumps. But after all, hey, that was Boise State's SUPER BOWL (if you watched that Youtube clip from the other day, you'll get the joke).
Here's what I see this weekend. Remember the Cal game? Yeah, something like that. Ok, it won't be THAT bad. Maybe more like Baylor. We may never approach that type of Cal loss. We never even lost to those great USC teams that badly. But the thing that I can't get out of my mind is last year's loss at Oregon. 53-7 was horrific, but as a lot of people know, that game could have been considerably worse. Consider:
- Oregon had an amazing 40-0 lead at the half. 40-0!?! In other words, when it was a game, we were in another dimension as far as how far away we were in the talent department.
- Oregon had over 550 yards of total offense, including 213 rushing yards, and 30 first downs. As Doba used to love to quip, those kinds of numbers are "hard to do against air".
Yuck yuck yuck. If Bellotti didn't decide to grow a heart in the second half and actually feel bad for Doba, that game could have been insanely awful. Like 77-7 awful.
So what's changed this year? Sure, Oregon's lost Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart, two fantastic players and unbelievable fits in the Chip Kelly spread, read-option offense. And Oregon has been hit as hard, if not harder than WSU, at the QB spot, losing their top two choices in Nate Costa and Justin Roper. And for stretches last week, Jeremiah Masoli and Chris Harper were in and out of the lineup. They ended up burning the redshirt of what some claim is the next Dennis Dixon, Darron Thomas. Thomas lit up the Boise State secondary for three fourth-quarter TD passes, but it was too little, too late. Anyway, right now, it appears that the starting QB could be Masoli, OR, Justin Roper? The young kid, Thomas, is down a bit as the third QB. Who really knows what we'll see out of the QB spot, but I would bet we'll see more than one of those guys at various stages in the game.
But enough of the QB stuff. Because does it really MATTER? I don't think it does. Oregon scores 30+ points in their sleep in this system. In 17 total games with Chip Kelly as the offensive coordinator, Oregon has scored at least 30 points in 13 of them, averaging 39.4 points per game. That's a MACHINE. Yes, their skill position speed is fantastic, and the running backs with Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount are excellent. But to me, the biggest thing they have going is that offensive line. Just like Wulff said in the radio show the other night, they are great up front, right next to Cal as tops in the Pac-10. Four senior starters, plus an all-conference TE in Ed Dickson, against our defensive line?? Be afraid, be very afraid.
I also picture OC Chip Kelly taking about five minutes of game tape from our game vs. Baylor or Cal, turn to Mike Bellotti and say with a gigantic smile, "You know, Mike....I think we might be able to run the ball this week." :)
The other scary part is our offensive line vs. the Oregon defensive line. Both starting defensive tackles are seniors and pushing 300 lbs. Ra'Shon Harris and Cole Linehan, inside, have both played in 34 career games. While I think Kenny Alfred will do just fine at center against these guys, who knows what the guards will do. We've seen what happens when our offensive line takes on a big, experienced BCS defensive line (CAL). And defensive end Nick Reed is a nightmare with his quickness and energy. This guy never, ever takes plays off, and when you think about our breakdowns last week in terms of just keeping the QB in the game? Especially picking up guys coming off the edge? It better clean up, in a hurry, or else Ocho Rojo won't survive the first half.
Now, I do think we are getting better as a team, in many phases. The defense is going to improve with the safeties settling in, with Hicks and Jackson and their ability to partol the middle of the field. And as Wulff said, we really tackled well last week, only recording two missed tackles on the day. Go back and watch the Cal game (if you dare), and you will find nothing but blown assignments, guys out of position and most of all, poor tackling throughout that train wreck. So they really are getting better.
Offensively, we are coming around. The running game was stronger last week, almost 280 yards rushing. And Ocho Rojo showed something that both Gary Rogers and Kevin Lopina did not, and that is the ability to take care of the football! Marshall didn't have a turnover in his limited time on the field, which is a welcome change. The young WR's are getting better each week, as there seems to be less confusion. Jeshua Anderson is looking more comfortable and starting to mesh into the offense. And after some early struggles, Brandon Gibson has started to play like Brandon Gibson 2007, with over 200 yards receiving combined the last two games.
But here's the biggest thing that probably keeps coach Wulff tossing and turning at night - TURNOVERS AND PENALTIES! They simply cannot continue, or these guys will get run off the field. This team has enough issues with youth and inexperience and a lack of strength at many positions. But to also give the ball away is just plain suicide. Currently we lead the Pac-10 with 14 turnovers in four games, and dead-last with a minus-9 turnover ratio. Ouch.
And in the lack-of-discipline department, WSU also "leads" the Pac-10 with 32 penalties, again, in four games. Double-Ouch. Until they get this kind of stuff cleaned up, they stand no chance against a ranked BCS opponent like Oregon.
The biggest thing to watch is how the defensive line can hold up against the run. They will need a heroic effort from A'i Ahmu and Matt Eichelberger just to stay within shouting distance. But I can't get past the feeling that they are walking into the lions den with Oregon's offensive line.
Oregon's early success running the ball will have a major effect on our defense. Already we will be putting eight guys "in the box", up near the line of scrimmage, just to have hope to slow down the run. But if they are able to continually gash the defense for positive yardage every play, that will lead to more and more cheating up by the safeties and corners. And that, my friends, leads to BIG PLAYS over the top. This Chip Kelly read option is a pain because of their ability to show you so many different looks with their offense. One time they'll hand it off. The next they'll pitch it to the back. One time they might motion a guy from the slot and he becomes the player who could get the option pitch. Or, the QB might fake the handoff, start to go into the option, and then pull it back out via play action and throw it deep. There's just so many things they can do to confuse and confound. A young, aggressive defense cheating up against the run will be dead meat against a team like this.
But call me crazy, in the end, I do think we'll see this one as interesting, and probably into the 2nd half we'll hang in there. I do believe we might see some success with Ocho Rojo, and a fast early start would do wonders for their confidence on offense. But I believe the Oregon running game will be far too powerful over the course of four quarters. Oregon runs away in the 2nd half, winning it 44-20.
Washington 27 Stanford 16 UW becomes the last NW team - on any level - to win a football game. And it only took until the last Saturday in September to do it! Welcome to the club. But seriously, UW runs at will in this one. Last year they steamrolled Stanford's D to the tune of 388 yards rushing, on the road at Palo Alto. Expect a repeat performance.
CAL 49 CSU 14. Colorado State is lousy. Cal has had a week off to stew about their terrible loss at Maryland. Jahvid Best gets back in the all-universe discussion after this one.
USC 38 Oregon State 27. USC has had their struggles in Corvallis, losing that epic game in 2006 and winning by only eight points in 2004, USC's national title year. The Beavs will keep it close but they simply don't have enough to beat USC.
Fresno State 23 UCLA 9. UCLA will put up a surprising fight, but there is just no ability to move the ball or score enough points against a pretty good Fresno team. But their defense will allow them to hang around at home.
And the Big One on the national state:
Georgia 20 Alabama 16. Ah, Saturday night in the SEC. How can you not love it as an NCAA football fan? Another excellent fight between two SEC heavyweights. Since the game is between the hedges in Athens, the home field will win out. QB Matt Stafford will be the big difference here. Note - the last five times Georgia and Alabama have played when both teams were ranked? Georgia has won ALL FIVE. Take UGA at home.
Sorry I'm late! But I am here at last to finally push this post right off the bottom of the page.
This week is Homecoming and a time for us all to celebrate our beloved WAZZU, take in the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of Cougar football Saturday, enjoy the camaraderie with the Cougar nation and reminisce about glorious Cougar Football Saturdays past. Soak it all in before kickoff folks, cause once this one starts it will be all Quack. The tragic circumstances leading to Ocho Rojo's sudden rise to starting QB have left us with an interesting storyline this week. It actually makes this game worth watching. However, unless number 8 is also an All-World defensive tackle, we aren't likely to enjoy too much of what we see against the Ducks. We are going to be totally outclassed on both lines and by the end of the game it will be reflected on the scoreboard -
I'll leave the other predictions to my wiser blogmates, but I wanted to get my 2 cents in before the weekend.
Viva Ocho Rojo and GO COUGS!