Greetings Cougar Nation. Hope you all have had a joyous start to the Holiday Season.
On my front, I've got family galore in town. So, this post is going to be especially uninformative and brief.
Nation, as you all know, today I am playing for my second consecutive national championship. With a correct prediction today, Brinkhater goes a perfect 25-0 over the last two football seasons. Add to that only 2 losses last year in basketball (blew BOTH Arizona games) and you can see that its time for some serious streak breaking! Thankfully, I have two really, really great games to test my final mettle.
Nation, in my mind, both contests today are either going to be blowout losses or major upsets won with great moxy and execution.
First, on the basketball front, while I was too late to predict our win yesterday, I am not too late to predict our shocking upset of Pitt today. Obviously, Taylor is going to have to play much, much, much better than he did yesterday. And Mr. Thompson is going to have to play even better. But, as we've noted here before, our little Ole Pack defense is just really hard to figure out if you haven't seen it before. And, as we've seen so far this year, no one seems to have figured us out yet, and I think Pitt becomes another victim of T-Bone's genius.
Cougs make really nice statement for the Selection Committee as November Ends thanks to clutch free throws by Rochestie down the stretch:
Cougs 59 Pitt 55
Now onto football.
Nation, we have seen many a GOOD team finish badly over the last few years. From the 2006 Washington State Cougars to the 2007 Oregon Yucks and CAL Bears (and maybe the 2008 Arizona Mildcats), sometimes a good year just falls to pieces down the stretch.
And with that in mind, Brinkhater believes that the opposite may be true for us this season. While this group will always represent the worst WSU team of our lives in my mind, something tells me this group is headed to 3-10 for some of the same reasons Sedi noted below.
Simply put, I think our Defense is going to be stout. I think we're going to keep the turnover ratio down just like last week, and I think that our running game and emergent short passing game is going to be enough to pull off this ball-control shocker.
WSU 25 Hawaii 24
Beavs 38 Oregon 30. You don't win last week at AZ if you don't win the whole thing. Its in the Cosmos, Beavs head to Pasadena as Canfield comes off the bench to rally the Beavs from a 20-7 halftime deficit.
SC 24 ND 3. I really don't like SC's O, but I really, really like their D.
Clay Bennett University 41 Clay Bennett State University 30
Enjoy the Game
Ah yes, Hawaii. The only state in the union that good 'ol McLovin would actually pick for a fake ID. "McLovin? One name? Who are you, Seal?"
McLovin, the 25-year old Hawaiian organ donor. FANTASTIC.
SO, for this week, Hawaii. After a desolate season of seasons, the end of the road is finally in sight. As Paul Wulff has said for several weeks now, the moment this season is over this will be a much better football team (no disrespect to the current seniors who will ride off into the sunset). So clearly a lot of people, coaches included, have been anxiously waiting to turn the page of 2008.
What do we know about this game? Here's just a few things:
- It's REALLY important for Hawaii to win this one. At 6-5 and a bowl bid on the line, they must get to seven wins to guarantee post-season play. A check of their schedule shows #16 Cincinnati coming in next weekend, and in reality Hawaii will be the underdog in that one. This game is circled as "must win", big-time.
- What will be left in the Cougar gas tank? Last week was, let's face it, the epitome of dropping loads of emotion on the football field. It's awfully tough to get it cranked back up on the road after such an emotional home experience over your in-state rivals.
- Hawaii struggled early with their QB situation, but now that they finally settled in with Greg Alexander, they are playing closer to the Hawaii team we are familiar with. They still can drop 40 or more points on a lot of teams, scoring 49 last week vs. Robb Akey's Idaho Vandals and 42 the week before that against New Mexico State. Alexander is hot, 118 pass attempts and counting since his last INT. Things are clicking all of a sudden, and this is not the best week to play them.
- You cannot forget the WSU defense. Yes, it's been better of late. A lot better actually, holding our last two opponents under 400 yards of total offense (398 to ASU on the road, 323 to UW at home). There really has been a sense of improvement since the overall change to the three-man defensive line, as well as the return to action from Toby Turpin, the big lug in the middle who has been making some plays at nose tackle.
- We know the Cougar offense will have some issues moving the ball, as we always seem to do on a weekly basis. Even with the big pass play to Jared Karstetter that will go down in Apple Cup lore, Kevin Lopina was hovering in the low-100's in passing yardage. Not good. But maybe something clicked last week with the running game? For the first time all year, they stuck with the run into the second half, and it worked, with a season-best 171 yards rushing (discounting the Portland State I-AA game). The run was the key to that win in the second half and in OT as well.
The bad news for the Cougar O is that Hawaii starts NINE seniors on defense, so they are experienced. Linebacker Solomon Eliminian is a machine, now over 400 tackles in his career. When it's all said and done he will go down as one of the greatest linebackers in WAC history. They play well in front of their fans, as they get an extra jolt from the home crowd. Like Paul Wulff said earlier in the week, you can feel like you are down 14 points before you even take the field against these guys in their house.
In 2008, "strength" and "WSU defense" haven't always existed in the same sentence. Except when headed by "lack of".......but when you think about the Coug D, you don't think about size. If you do, you think SMALL, not big. They are a smallish, speedier defense that has trouble against the power running teams who get five yards on every single rushing attempt. But against the pass, the Cougs are respectable, giving up 185 yards per game through the air or #5 in the PAC-10.
I know stats can be misleading, and several games earlier in the year, the team was so far behind early that opponents barely threw the ball down the stretch. But moving Andy Mattingly back to linebacker was a big boost in the pass defense last week, and he should be even better this week after a full game of getting familiar with the position. Don't forget what that guy did in 2007, and a lot of his success came as a 3-4 linebacker. And Louis Bland played with the heart of a lion last week, making huge plays all over the field. He is a rising star by all accounts, and having him team with Mattingly and Greg Trent makes the linebacking corps our best position BY FAR on the football field.
And with the three-man front, that scheme enables them to drop more into coverage and handle the passing offense like Hawaii will roll out tomorrow night. The three-man front in football was basically invented to better handle passing offenses like the west coast offense, or even the run-n-shoot. Clog up more passing lanes with more bodies back there who can run, and it could be interesting.
In the end, I think Hawaii has too much on the line to let this one get away. They are one game away from getting back to a bowl game, and they won't let the opportunity slip through their fingers, especially at home. They are playing much better with Greg Alexander at QB, and they should keep it going this week. I do believe the Cougar D will come to play, and keep things interesting, but I just don't think we can bank on much from the offense. Combine all that with the emotion letdown that is likely for these young kids, and you can see where this one is headed. While I don't believe this will go exactly the way Vegas believes, I do think Hawaii wins it by a couple of scores. I'll go Warriors 31, WSU 17.
Oregon 31, Oregon State 28 - The Rose Bowl dream comes to an end. The Beavs escaped big-time last week, and they are doing what "teams of destiny" tend to do, and that's find ways to win games when all appears lost. But Oregon has had an extra week to get ready for this one, and with the Beavs minus Jacquizz Rodgers, one of the best impact frosh running backs the PAC-10 has ever seen? I just think the Yucks break some hearts in this one.
ASU 35, UCLA 20 - ASU can still salvage a bowl game, even after their terrible start. They are at home, and clearly the better team here.
USC 47, Notre Dame 13 - Are they really going to buy out Charlie Weis? I heard Beano Cook say earlier this week that after talking to some of his sources, Weis is in BIG trouble. The players hate him and will lay down this week to grease the skids out of town.
BIG National game:
Oklahoma 42, Okie State 38 - Great match-up of exciting offenses in a rivalry game. It's at Okie State, but Oklahoma is probably the hottest team in the country right now. Let the BCS bitching begin.
ENJOY YOUR DAY, and GO COUGS!