Monday, January 05, 2009
After some delays and speculation, including the "future" schedule just showing the 2008 season from the WSU website, things are finally complete. June Jones' SMU Mustangs will come to Pullman on 9/19, completing the three game non-conference slate for the upcoming season.
SMU pretty much stunk in '08, rolling out a 1-11 season in their first season under Jones. We'll take a closer look at them this spring for our fish wrap series, but they struggled big-time. They did hang in there against bowl teams like Houston (44-38), Memphis (31-26) and Tulsa (37-31) but 1-11 is 1-11. Awfully bumpy. SMU was the only Conference USA team to not win a conference game, going 0-8, with their only victory was against Texas State, an FCS school out of the Southland conference.
The schedule also includes the news that Hawai'i will be the Seattle game opponent on September 12th. I don't think this is a surprise to many, as it was rumored for some time that they would be the match-up in Seattle.
Here's a question for you - Do you like the Seattle game? Hate it? I have to admit that I loved it at first and have liked it less over the last few seasons. But I think it is a necessary thing now and is here to stay. Even in some down years they have been drawing a decent crowd to Qwest, and it does give a lot of west side alums a chance to see the team. In these tough economic times, a trip from Seattle to Pullman might be harder to pull off next fall. Having the team come to Seattle makes sense, maybe more than ever. I just hope we never see a conference home game in Seattle. Make the conference travel to Pullman!
So that makes it Hawai'i, SMU and Notre Dame at San Antonio for the non-conference games. Then in the Pac-10, we have home games against Stanford, ASU, UCLA and Oregon State, with road games against Cal, Arizona, USC, Oregon and UW. Most likely opening up with Stanford in Pullman on 9/5, but that's all we know right now. Dates and times TBA.
Moving on, so, how about that weak Pac-10? 5-0 in bowl games, including USC destroying Penn State in the granddaddy of them all. Speaking of USC, did you see what Rey Maualuga did to Erin Andrews before the game??
Whatever. EA 's taken a lot of crap for being attractive on the sidelines, from blogs to broadcasters to athletes. But it has to be said - fair or not, it more or less comes with the territory in the testosterone-elevated world where she works. It's not fair, obviously, but it's true. We've even made fun of her a few times, but nothing too bad. We like her. Quite a bit actually. But that wasn't a real classy move by Rey. Remember, Maualuga once claimed "he owned the police" after an incident a few years ago in LA. To come up behind her and shimmy, with thousands of people watching? Again, whatever.
But anyway, the Pac-10 went 5-0 in the bowls? How could this happen after such a national beating the conference took in 2008? I think a big part of it is that, quite frankly, the Pac-10 was much, much better at the end of the season than it was in the beginning of the year. And the biggest reason? The QB situation. Think about it for a moment:
1) USC was starting a brand new QB in Mark Sanchez after John David Booty graduated. USC walloped Virginia in their opener, then beat an incredibly overrated Ohio State team in LA. But then they had to travel to Corvallis on a Thursday night and got beat by a fired-up Oregon State team. At the time that loss looked bad, and Sanchez was rather ordinary if not bad for about three quarters of that game. Yet Oregon State turned out to be a win away from the Rose Bowl. It wasn't looked at as a "good" loss at the time, but by the end of the year it didn't look too bad. That early-season road loss was their only blemish on their season. Mark Sanchez settled down after that first month of the year, and SC was rarely threatened the rest of the season. And a MAJOR hat-tip to Pete Carroll and USC. Did you know that they just had their SEVENTH season in a row with at least 11 wins!?!? A few years ago we ran with our media guide saying how great it was to win 10 games three years in a row. But 11 wins seven years in a row?? Unreal.
2) Oregon started over at QB, losing Heisman hopeful Dennis Dixon, and it was a big QB roulette early on. They blew it at home vs. Boise State when they played three different QB's and didn't even have the starter coming into the season, Justin Roper, due to injury. They were also hammered vs. USC and lost on the road vs. Cal, a team they never seem to beat. But they did end up going 6-1 over their last seven games, including the embarrassment in Corvallis and the Holiday Bowl shootout over Okie State. Oregon was considerably better in the last month of the season, and a ton of their improvement can be attributed to Jeremiah Masoli taking control of the QB position.
3) We know the tale of the Beavs. Two losses to start the year, including their pants being pulled down to their ankles vs. Penn State. But after starting 2-3, they finished with their usual kick, winning seven of their last eight games. We should also consider their tough three-point loss at Utah, a game by all accounts they should have won. The same Utah team that just completed a perfect season by trouncing the uninterested Crimson Tide and Nick Saban. But the Beavs had QB issues early on with some erratic play, including some injury issues from Lyle Moevao. Yet just another nine-win, bowl-winning season for Oregon State. Ho-hum.
4) Cal kind of slogged through the meat of the season, at one point 6-4 and looking pretty shaky. But they would win their last three, including their bowl game over Miami, to finish with an impressive 9-4 record. That said, their QB play was up-and-down all year. Some games they had Kevin Riley looking like the MAN (remember how good he looked vs. WSU?) and then other games, Nate Longshore would split the time, and there were moments where they both would kind of wander through games. A weird year for them, but they closed it out on top.
5) Finally, Arizona. They were the only team of the Pac-10 bowl teams who actually had a seasoned starter in Willie Tuitama. After a hot 4-1 start, they almost blew it, at one point at 6-5 and a showdown with ASU looming in what could have been a winner-take-all bowl bid (although that is unlikely. The Pac-10 didn't fill all their bowl slots this year, so, any Pac-10 team with six wins was going to the post-season). But the Mildcats beat ASU for the first time in four years, and then won the Vegas Bowl over a bored BYU team to finish 8-5.
So there you have it. While the bottom two teams were pretty much automatic wins for every other team in the conference in '08 (and we know which two teams were in the bottom ten for the majority of the season?!?), the end-result for the conference was pretty damn good. And all five bowl teams finished with a kick. USC 11 wins, Oregon 10 wins, Oregon State and Cal both with nine wins, and Arizona with eight. Not so bad is it?
That's about it for a Monday. Enjoy your week, and GO COUGS!