Greetings Cougar Nation. Hope you and the legion of Brinkhater-hater soldiers are having a great week.
As we have documented on this blog over the past couple of weeks, our Dear Coach Paul Wulff appears to be in quite a quandary. "Why?" you ask?
Well, he's got one heck of a predicament at Quarterback.
Now, granted, I don't have firsthand access to all that is happening inside Cougarville, but when you are 1-9 (soon to be 1-10) and when your starting quarterback has zero touchdowns and TEN interceptions to his credit, well, it is past time to start exploring all available options.
And to a certain extent Wulff has--which is why our soon-to-be-savior JT Levenseller had his redshirt burned in Stanford Stadium.
But, unfortunately for all of us, making the transition to JT has not been, and perhaps can not be, seamless this year. "Why?" you ask again?
Because Kevin Lopina has been Captain and First Mate on the good ship don't quit all season long.
Indeed, while other players have been hooting and hawing about this, that, and the other thing, Lopina has been Mr. Positive, Mr. Resilient, and Mr. Energy for the whole doggone year.
We saw it at the beginning of the season when he somehow overtook Gary Rogers after 6 quarters, and we see it now when his numbers belie his playing time.
In short, Wulff is stuck with one helluva predicament: he can bench the leader of the "character and compete" kids or he can stay with a guy who can't get the job done and weed the quitters out further.
You can obviously see what direction he has taken.
At the same time, it will be quite interesting to see when the rubber finally meets the road. After all, the numbers and video speak for themselves, and with only one year of eligibility left for Lopina, at some point Wulff is going to have to look at the future and then never look back.
Lopina starts the next two weeks. Then, in the last game, when the season is done anyhow, look for Levy to get his start. In Brinkhater's limited view that is the ONLY way to make a case for burning JT's redshirt as well as opening up the Quarterback position in Spring Ball.
Now, onto our game.
Nation, I might have missed the mark on the score last week, but please do not be fooled. Zona had ZERO reason to pay attention to any aspect of our football team last week. However, now that we laid 28 on the Cats last week, you can bet that the Devils will be prepared for the run-option thing we have going on.
In addition, look for a return of what happens to our D when our O can't move the ball.
This one is back to the future,
ASU 63 WSU 10
USC 27 Stanford 17. I think that this will be a good game despite popular opinion that Troy will roll in Revenge Bowl I. Stanford runs the ball a bit,eats the clock a bit, and keeps it close.
UCLA 20 Washington 17. My heart over my head in this one. Washington is ripe for a win, but I just can't fathom them not being winless headed into the Crapple Cup.
Oregon State 18 CAL 17. CAL's defense is playing as well as anyone in the country right now. But, because of their poor quarterback play and the Beavs' homefield advantage, I'm taking the Beavs in a world class nail biter.
Arizona 31 Oregon 27. CATS are for real and Quack start another classic end of the year slide.
Enjoy the games, Go Cougs, and pray for NO MORE STINKING INJURIES!!!!
Hello Coug Nation. As the season winds down to a slow, slog through the mud, the end is in sight. I think many of us felt that it will be a very good thing the second the 2008 schedule is in the rear-view mirror. We all, clearly, need to turn the page and look forward to what's to come, not dwell on what has happened. I mean really, what is the past but something that has already happened? You hope to learn from it, but there isn't anything on God's green earth that can be done about it. The milk has been spilled, so why cry about it?
But a funny thing happened to phoning in the season last week.....sort of. The kids showed some energy and competed beyond the first quarter against the AZ Wildcats. Who knew? But the thing is, Brinkhater is right. AZ was NOT JACKED UP for that game. They had to travel into Pullman, in lousy weather, and play a pretty bad team. They had everything to lose, and when you are such an overwhelming favorite, can you blame them for not being a little flat early on? But then once it got to 14-14, reality struck, and the next thing you know it's 42-14 early in the third quarter. Drive home safely.
That said - have you ever seen such celebrating over a 59-28 loss? I know that this season has seen a drop in performance in ways we never could have imagined, but suddenly there's this sense of optimism for this team? I've never seen so many people feel good about losing 59-28. I guess it shows the bar, as they say, has really been lowered. Sorry if that's a hard truth to swallow, but it is. Yet even I can admit to feeling good about a 31-point loss at home. It's weird, but with such depths that we've experienced, 28 points scored felt like 128.
Moving on, our opponent this week. What the hell has happened at ASU? After a big year last year, is the heat now on Dennis the Liar??
They were a team everyone, including myself, picked for 2nd place in the conference. They looked loaded coming off a 10-win season, senior QB, Erickson, etc. But ever since that UNLV loss at home in the third week of the year, they lost their mojo. They were beaten up vs. Georgia, blown out by USC and Oregon, and after losing a toughie at Corvallis, were sitting there at 2-6. But they rallied hard vs. UW last week, and now, believe it or not, if they win out they can still go to a bowl game! With this week, then UCLA in Tempe, and finally at Arizona to end the year, there is still a chance they can "yank it" out of the fire.
By the way, I have to ask this - how do students do anything at ASU other than drink, eat, sleep, work out and hang by the pool? I have only been there a few times, but WOW, what a fantastic place for young, vibrant 18-22 year olds to spend 4 or more years of their lives.
OK, here we go. ASU has offensive line issues, but their sacks allowed are less than half this year (25) compared to last year (55). As they have protected Rudy better, their passing game has has been pretty good, the #3 ranked passing offense in the conference at 240 yards per game. However, overall this has just been a down year for ASU. They aren't overly impressive in any one stat that makes you go WOW. They are 9th in the conference in 3rd down conversions (30%), and even with the 25 sacks allowed as a big improvement from last year? That is still giving up the third-most sacks in the conference. Even their running game isn't exactly getting it done, just 7th in the PAC-10 at 96 yards per game. To put that number into proper context, WSU is right behind them at 93 yards rushing per game.
The tipping point here, however, is that ASU might have just re-discovered a vital part to their attack, and that is the running game. After UW hung with ASU for three quarters in Seattle, ASU took over in the fourth quarter on the ground, and UW just couldn't stop it. Senior Keegan Herring is back off an injury, and ran hard vs. UW, racking up 144 yards on an impressive 6.5 yards per carry. Herring was thought to be a big part of the offense coming into the season, but he's been injured and has only played sparingly since the second week of the year. And now he's back, and that is bad news for us and our awful rush defense that gives up 279 yards PER GAME!
The other issue for me is how the heck we are going to score points again. Kevin Lopina's GOOSE EGG in the TD passing department just cannot be overlooked. Anyone who has watched him this year knows he's limited in throwing the football, and his decision making still isn't great. And we know that JT Levenseller likely won't do much more than get a few possessions here and there, so our passing game is yet again going to be virtually non-existent.
In the end, I'm thinking that this one will be somewhat similar to the Arizona game. I think the first half will be interesting as we might get a score or two, but with Keegan Herring's return to prominence in the ASU offense, for the first time in a long time ASU will have a healthy running game to balance their passing offense. We saw a glimmer of it last week when ASU racked up 39 points and 400 yards of offense on the road. That running game will take tremendous pressure off Rudy Carpenter, and that's when the track meet will begin. I'll go ASU 55, WSU 17.
USC 34 Stanford 3. I agree with Brinkhater's pick on the winner, but I think Pete pushes them hard in this one. Stanford's one-dimensional offense won't do much of anything against this SC defense, now looking like it will go down as one of the best in conference history.
UCLA 22 Washington 20. Say what you will about Slick Rick, but these are just the kinds of games he has a way of winning. He beat his former team in Colorado TWICE while at UW, and while his Bruins are pretty lousy, they will steal this one on the road.
CAL 21 Oregon State 17. I think the Beavs have something special going on, but I just can't see Sean Canfield beating Cal. The Berkeley Bears and their 3-4 attack will swarm the Beaver running game, daring Canfield to beat them, and I don't see it. The road team has won the last FIVE in this series, and that continues this week.
Oregon 36 Arizona 27. I agree Arizona is for real, but Oregon at home will get it done. Oregon's running game and high-energy defense in Autzen will be enough.
ENJOY YOUR THURSDAY and GO COUGS!