Thursday, October 02, 2008

Football Friday, Week 6: Not Ready for Prime Time

Greetings Resilient Cougar Nation!

Welcome to Football Friday, only on Thursday...Week 6 style.

Hard to believe, but we have actually reached the halfway point of the 2008 tilt (humor me and count Hawaii as a bowl game).

Thank God.

First and foremost, a big shout out to all of you for your comments this week. Not only were they generally great comments and takes, but they signified that, in spite of being abysmal, we really do have a hard core group of committed fans. And that is something to feel good about. Really.

Now, back to reality.

For weeks now, I've been pegging this game as a major upset special. For one, we always seem to play well against the powder blue puff girls (in Football, that is).

For two, UCLA's offense is pretty bad. And as Sedihawk brilliantly pointed out to me today, UCLA really represents the first straight up, conventional offensive team that we've faced all year. In short, no more spread, read-option offenses. Coupled with a pretty weak 3rd string quarterback gives real hope that we could see our first competitive game of the year.

The problem from my perspective is still our offense. And particular, our offensive line (it also doesn't help that the Evil Vince Grippi is back to his sinister ways and is reporting injuries to 3 out of our top 4 tailbacks. Damn you, Grippi)

While Ocho Rojo showed last Saturday that he really IS the man of the future, I think its a bit much to expect him to light it up in both his second start and first road game. Simply put, guys making their second starts as 18 point dogs rarely fare well. I think such is the case on Saturday--especially since we are still making changes at the tackle position. Look for #8 to make similar mistakes but more BIG PLAYS.

Therefore, while I see a game where we can stay "sort of in it," this is not a game that we will win.

That said, IF the O-Line steps up, and IF we can avoid the TO's that have buried us the last 5 weeks, we could WIN this one (last week, with a similar "stellar scenario" we could only make it interesting).

But we won't. UCLA wins 38-21 in a game that will make all WSU wagers rich: UCLA will NOT cover this weekend. No how, no way, no Chow.

However, lest you all think that Brinkhater has thrown in the towel this season, I haven't.

I still think we have a real fighting chance to stay out of the conference cellar(Hear that Ted Miller????).

Other games:

USC 31 Oregon 21: As the President once said, "shame me once, shame on.., shame me twice, shame..shame me, DON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN. Conquest makes move to once again be among the best 11-2 teams of all time.

Notre Dame 28 Trees 24. Captain Comeback runs the ball well, but can't quite get over the hump against Charlie Stump.

Arizona State 28 Cal 21. CAL has QB problems again and can't bring its Best. ASU will do better now that the expectations are lowered--LOSERS.

Arizona 51 Washington 24. Word to felllow Husky Haters: Their D sucks, but they may get better with a QB that can actually throw the football in the same zip code as an open receiver.

Utes 31 Beavs 28. Great game, but Beavs come back to earth.."Mountain West Rulz!"

And Bandit Bowl 2:

Florida State 24 Miami 23. In true Florida spirit, this "might could" be the game where Wide Right happens to the other team. This should be a good spirited, punk fest: Word to Joe Mommas everywhere.

Enjoy the Games and Go Cougs!!

Sedihawk Says:

Good morning Cougar Nation. Another week, another game. And another chance to scrape ourselves up off the mat. For why do we fall down? So we can get right back up and give it another shot. Tomorrow is just another chance to turn it all around, it's always darkest before the dawn, cliche', cliche', cliche' get the idea. We're 1-4 and we've sucked in the majority of the four losses. Period.

Do we have hope for this week? After several days of lamenting the lack of talent, depth and character, do we really believe that we can go down and beat UCLA? Well, it's not impossible. What is it with UCLA and WSU, and why WSU has been able to beat them so frequently of late? We know UCLA hates coming to Pullman and they haven't been shy about ripping on the Palouse. I was there last year in the 27-7 WSU win, and UCLA was one of the flattest teams I've ever seen play college football that day.

While UCLA might lead the overall series 35-18-1, the recent history is something to be excited about. Six of our last seven times, since 2001, WSU has prevailed. And it's 10 of the last 14, going all the way back to 1992. Even in an awful 1995 season, where we went 3-8 (yes, with Mike Price AND Bill Doba), we still beat them. And there have been some classics and/or KEY wins over them in recent times.
  • Jason Gesser playing on one leg, leading the Cougs to an historic 48-27 win in 2002, clinching the Pac-10 title.

  • The 1997 season opener with Ryan Leaf and Cade McNown going nuts, and a goal-line tackle by Leon Bender to preserve a 37-34 win.

  • The Palouse Posse pitching a 21-0 shutout vs. a ranked Bruins team in the Rose Bowl in 1994.

  • And who could forget the 1988 classic, when Timm Rosenbach, Tim Stallworth, Paul Wulff, Dennis Erickson and the rest of the Cougars shocked the nation with a comeback, 34-30 win over Troy Aikman's #1 ranked Bruins (we'll revisit that one tomorrow).
So for whatever reason, we see the powder blue and gold, we get excited.

Anyway, will it matter this week? Here's what I think will happen:

UCLA has struggled so far, and they were beaten famously at BYU, 59-0. But they did beat the SEC's Tennessee Vols the week prior. Seems like a very distant memory now, and the BYU fiasco is much more ingrained on the brain. But I don't think the Vols game should be thrown out, and for this reason - UCLA stood toe to toe with BCS/SEC athletes, mounted a comeback, forced overtime and ultimately prevailed. Can we say the same thing? Absolutely NOT. While Tennessee has proven to be a disappointing SEC team, clearly not one that will be a factor down south, still, this wasn't exactly Portland State if you get my drift? That game, to me at least, shows that UCLA might have a 1-3 record, but they DO have the ability on a weekly basis to beat a lot of BCS teams. Especially at home.

Speaking of at home, UCLA has beaten Tennessee, was blown out by Arizona, and then lost a tough one last week vs. a good Fresno State team, 36-31. But in that Fresno State game, UCLA, for the first time all season, showed a pulse on offense, and especially the running game with 234 rushing yards. Uh-oh.

Finally, Kevin Craft, the emergency starter at QB after the Bruins lost Pat Cowan and Ben Olson before the season, has more or less settled down. He has thrown five INT's this season, in four games, and that's not very good. But consider that FOUR of those INT's were thrown in the first half vs. Tennessee. Over the last 3 1/2 games, he's only thrown one INT.

But let's look at the full picture here. You think OUR offense is bad? We're at least averaging 19 points per game (yuck). But who is averaging 17 points per game, good for last in the PAC?? UCLA. And while we have sputtered mightily on offense, averaging 322 yards per game, or eighth in the conference.....guess who is LAST in the conference, with a measly 276.8 yards per game?? UCLA.

And UCLA's defense has been touted as being big, fast, physical, the whole deal. But the Bruins are allowing an amazing 37.5 points per game, eighth in the Pac-10. And they are eighth in the Pac-10 in total defense, giving up 415.8 yards per game. That's only 21 yards less per game that our awful WSU defense, if you can believe it. Think about that for a second - all those yards and points we have seen the WSU defense give up so far, and UCLA is only 21 yards less per game? That's a huge shock to me. So they are dealing with a new culture change as well with Slick Rick.
But that's just the stats, and you know they don't always tell the story. Judging a team just four or five games into a brand new regime is, as they say, SMALL SAMPLE SIZE. There is way too much of the season left to go before you can fully peg a team, one way or another, and a hell of a lot can change.

So that's the Bruins. But what about our Cougs? What can we expect?

I think like Brinkhater says, Ocho Rojo will play better. He will make plays and will likely grind out a few drives of note. Brandon Gibson will get his yards and catches, Devin Frischknecht will have a decent day, Jeshua Anderson will turn in a big play or two, and we'll have some things to cling to as the season rolls on. And believe it or not, I do think our defense will play better this week. There will be some adjustments made, again, and a renewed effort to stop the run. Some new faces will be out there, and that will help, but I think we'll see some wrinkles to do everything in our power to stop a running game.

ALL that said, it still won't be enough. If there is one thing we've seen as a general tone this season, it's this - on both sides of the ball, up front, we simply aren't good enough. We've started five different combinations at offensive line, and none of them have proven to be the solution. Even while we had a huge stat game vs. Portland State, we still allowed far too many free shots at the QB's. But the huge concern is how they've been physically overwhelmed vs. BCS opponents on both the offensive and defensive lines. While UCLA's own offensive line has been overwhelmed as well this season, they will still be able to handle what our defensive front throws at them this week.

In the end, I do see a tight game here. But UCLA gets it done in the trenches. We will have extreme difficulty running the football, and Ocho Rojo, while showing some real upside, still won't be able to do it without a legit running game. And defensively, we'll rally to the football and slow down the run early, but UCLA will stick with it and stick with it and stick with it, ultimately wearing out a tired defense. The Bruins pull away late, tack on a 4th quarter TD, and win it going away, 34-20.

Other games:

USC 30 Oregon 27: USC is mad, sure, but they also aren't as "special" as we thought they would be. The Oregon State offense showed that USC's defense can be handled up front. Oregon's o-line is excellent and they will not be intimidated. USC wins it late but it will come right down to the end.

Notre Dame 23 Stanford 18. Harbaugh's heroes are rolling, already at 3 wins. But a bit of a letdown coming off their big road win at UW.

ASU 33, CAL 20. CAL has opened up the QB job again, and Jahvid Best is hurt. But ASU gets off the mat after their loss to UGA, and Erickson coaches 'em up for the W.

Arizona 57 Washington 31. Agree with Brinkhater here. I have to admit I enjoy watching Jake Locker run the football, but I've been down on him as a true QB since the beginning of last year. The kid is simply not a consistent thrower, period. There have been very few "special" running QB's who could also throw the ball consistently, and at this point Locker looks nothing more than the second coming of Michael Vick....except for the dog fighting crap. Anyway, Ronnie Fouch will keep them in it for a while and will surprise some folks by his ability to move the team, but UW's defense, WOW. Just WOW. It will be a miracle if AZ fails to score less than 50 in this one.

Utes 33 Beavs 19. I want to think that Oregon State is doing their annual circle-the-wagons deal after yet another slow start. But they have lost at Stanford and were embarrassed vs. Penn State on the road. I think reality hits the Orange-n-Black. LET DOWN CITY against a very good Utah team in Salt Lake.

And Bandit Bowl 2:

Florida State 21 Miami 13. Hooray thugs. Both teams ain't what they used to be, where it was almost a national holiday when these two would get it on back in the day. But Bowden's boys have too much for the still-rebuilding Canes.

But as we always say, that's why they play the games.


KentCoug said...

Decent analysis boys, but you are wrong about USC/ won't be close. USC wins going away. Also, Miami rallys at home as 2 Live Crew performs in the locker room pregame and offers the players "hundy's" for big plays. Also, Cal wins at home, QB issues and all as ASU just isn't that tough.

Keep up the good work, and here's to the cougs keeping it close!

Stiffmiester said...

We may not have much of a chance to win but I can still Hope. I can't stand the thought of losing to Hermie the elf. I am looking forward to watching Ocho Rojo grow and hope to him dink and dunk the ball all to Gibson and Frankenstien. Hopefully Joshua can get into the football rhythem and fix the dropsies we saw last week. Also I thinking about making a Grippi Voo Doo doll.

Go Cougs

Selahcoug said...

I can't argue with any of your picks. I just hope for the sake of the conference that OSU and Stanford step up. I also hope the Lobster puts on a show and increases his legend.

Patrick said...

If we can stay away from the early game turnover (Cal & Oregon) I think we can keep the game close. When the team is down 14 two-three minutes into the game it takes the extra step out of their game.

I look forward to an upset but know if it doesn't come there's always next time. I'm actually excited to see Ocho Rojo and Gibson hook up a few times. The kid is looking good.


Sedihawk said...

Can't believe I forgot to mention that, but turnovers, HELLO!? Absolutely right. Minus-13 turnover and the most penalties in the conference has gotten pretty old in talking about, but, it is what it is. I told Brinkhater the other day, I would absolutely LOVE to see us play a clean ballgame and see what the heck happens. I do believe they will clean that stuff up, but the pure weakness up front isn't something that will change, unfortunately.

bill gray said...

Holy crap! First calling out Jody Sears (absolutely correct), and then picking the OSU game perfectly - Brinkhater you're on fire!

Brinkhater said...

I'm hoping that this is an Omen that my streak is nearing an end.

Let's go Cougs!!!!