Happy Football Friday on Thursday Cougs! Yep, as the headline pic says - LOOKS LIKE WE MADE IT! Football season is finally here, and tonight, the Cougs get it on in Provo with, well, the other Cougs. What do we think will happen tonight? Read on for this week's picks from the WSU Football Blogfathers, plus more.....
Greetings Cougs, and a happy Football Friday on Thursday to you and yours. I cannot believe the season starts tonight, I mean WOW did this summer fly by or what? It was a great summer too around the Hawkins household, as we spent a ton of time outside in one of the nicest stretches of summer weather I can recall in the great NW. And I'm still sad my son decided to hang up the football cleats for this season after two years of playing a mean nose tackle, but we have hopes he will return next fall for 7th grade football. And as Coug fans, we know that there's always hope for next year, right!?
But that was then, this is now. And I for one cannot WAIT until 7'ish tonight to watch this whole new Mike Leach era finally kick off in, you know, a real game? That's the beauty of tonight - no more speculating, no more practice reports/scrimmages, no more looking at old Texas Tech youtube videos or old Phil Steele magazines to see what the Air Raid looked like at it's peak. Tonight, none of that matters. All that matters is what we see on the field in an actual game, and we get a front row seat as it all unfolds on the big screen!
So, tonight's game. I'll be brief, and I'll be honest. And I just can't shake my sense of dread over this one.
A huge part of it? The match-up is just not in our favor. A BYU power running game with an experienced, older team, on the road on national TV against a program that loves to beat the Pac-12 (7-4 in their last 11 against Pac-10/12 foes). They will be jacked-n-pumped to put on a good show, and it will be crucial that WSU does what they can to hang in there and hold their ground when things get started.
I heard Keith Gilbertson talk on KJR the other day about this game, and how it reminds him of the time Rick Neuheisel took UW to BYU in his first year in Seattle. All the excitement after UW dumped Lambo in favor of the "splashy" hire in Tricky Ricky, the new hopes and dreams with the return of the gold helmets and exciting offense and all that stuff. Well, UW went to BYU and early on, they were a bit overwhelmed. BYU looked HUGE compared to UW's younger players, and the home team controlled things as BYU took a 2-score lead into the fourth quarter. But after everything settled down, UW battled back and actually took the lead with 5 minutes left, before BYU rallied very late to win the game with a TD pass with just over a minute left.
And on that day, I WAS A BYU FAN! :)
Anyway, I don't know, I guess there are some types of similarities here? New coach of a young team vs the older, more experienced team on the road? And there will be a powerful season-opening wave of emotion out of BYU in Provo. But the crazy thing is UW kind of got their footing that season, actually flirting with the Pac-10 title later in the year before blowing a game at UCLA. But they would go on to win the Pac-10 in 2000, and beat Drew Brees and Purdue in the Rose Bowl. So maybe this game can be the so-called "springboard" for this young group to really believe in the new regime and what lies ahead!? More so than all the practices and scrimmages and running on the Leach Beach and all that other stuff, there is nothing better for a young team's confidence than hitting the road in a hostile environment and standing strong in the face of adversity!
The key for me is all about the first quarter, and really about halfway into the second quarter. If we are seriously nervous and make a bunch of youthful mistakes early, as youth is often prone to do, and in the process fall behind a few scores? It makes me reallly unsure about our chances. Not because I don't think we can get back into it, in fact WSU in 2012 seems like the perfect type of team that can come back with the Air Raid!
But instead, I'm worried about falling behind early because that plays right into what BYU wants to do - get an early lead, then run the ball, move the chains, and eat the clock. For there is no better way to stop a Mike Leach offense than by keeping it on the sidelines, and that's just what BYU is going to try to do.
One more thing - the so-called "wise guys" in Vegas tend to make a lot of money betting college football. I mean it's kind of what they do for a living, how they pay their bills, etc. And I once heard an interview that some of the wise guys have a sytem when it comes to predicting outcomes with new coaches/coaching staffs in college football and in particular, the season-opening weekends. And it basically looks like this:
IF a team has 1) a brand new offensive coordinator/system, 2) a brand new defensive coordinator/system, 3) LESS than 15 starters total coming back, and finally, 4) a starting QB who has started less than two full seasons in his career, then TAKE THE OTHER TEAM AND THE POINTS! And sad to say it, folks, but WSU fits the bill - a brand new OC/system, a brand new DC/system, less than 15 starters total coming back, and a starting QB who has started less than 2 full seasons in his career (Jeff Tuel is close as a fourth year senior, but with 19 career starts).
And just one other thing to think about - Did you know that since 1960, in the Pac-10 (now Pac-12), 32 times a team has changed coaches after a losing season. And how did the new coach do the following year, with all the new rules and schemes and such? Well, only FIVES TIMES did the team that switched coaches after the losing season actually roll out a winning season with the new coach the following year! I know, right?? I about fell out of my chair when I read that, but it's true. The last coach in the Pac-12 to win his first year after inheriting a losing situation? Try Jeff Tedford in his first year at Cal. In other words (and this is a serious CAPTAIN OBVIOUS moment here), it's tough to turn it all around in one season!
I'm not a betting guy, so there's that. And I do not believe that BYU will cover the point spread. But my prediction is that we get behind a few scores early as we struggle to get our legs and BYU runs it up and down the field. But we will see our kids fight HARD back into it, even getting it within a couple of points. But eventually the rally will fall short. BYU adds a late field goal for window dressing on the scoreboard, making it look like a bigger margin than it actually felt like, but the final will be BYU 37, WSU 30.
You know what? The rest of the Pac-12 schedule this weekend, well, IT SUCKS. So just take the Pac-12 teams. The end. GO COUGS!
Happy Football Friday on a Thursday Everybody.
Week One there really aren't any exciting Out of Conference match-ups for the Pac 12 Conference. Our Cougar on Cougar action tonight in the land of prude's is clearly the league's best match-up this week. Therefore, I am not going to even break down every game. I have everybody in the Pac-12 moving to 1-0 this week, with the exception of Arizona. I have them dropping their game down in Tucson against Toledo, and backed that pick up by picking it over in our Yahoo Pick Em League.
Speaking of our Pick Em Pool, our first one is full, so you can join the second, and accompanying league. Check back with this post each week for the updated standings across both groups.
Head over to Yahoo College Football Pick 'em. Search for League ID# 17543 and use "gocougs" for the password!
Below you will find my thoughts on tonight's game.
Mike Leach makes his return to the sidelines of college football after a near-3 year hiatus, against BYU, his alma mater. Leach is 9-1 all-time in openers, dropping his only contest to Ohio State a few years back. Bronco Mendenhall is 0-3 when his team squares off with a Leach-led team, and is rumored to be throwing the 2-4-5 defense on the field to attempt to slow the Air Raid tonight. What that means to me, is the LDS Cougs will be in "Keep The Offense In-Front Of You" Mode, and that may limit their abilities to get the edge in tonight's determining factor.
That key factor?
While our Cougs haven't exactly been ball-hawks themselves the last couple of seasons, I believe the hiring of Breske will bring back defensive schemes we haven't seen since the 2001-2004 seasons for the WSU D. By the way, when did Robb Akey leave for Idaho? I'm pretty sure that was also the last time we called a safety or CB Blitz!
The offense will do what it does, does the defense have enough to keep us in the game?
Huddy's Semi-Educated Guesses:
Imagine my surprise when I logged in to chip in on the predicition post tonight and saw that my fellow blogfathers had punted on picking the entire slate of conference games. This worked out great for me since I'm like the Reggie Roby of...well...punting. The less I can tax my brain the better, especially during week 1. It seems a little bit nuts to ask me to think about anything other than the Cougs right now. In the interest of full disclosure, though, I have everyone in the conference except Colorado winning this week. Now, for the game that actually matters....
Now that gameday is upon us, I'm creeping ever closer to that blind optimism that leads me to believe there is no possible outcome other than a WSU win. As a mostly irrational fan, it makes no sense to think anything else. Going into a game believing that a loss is coming pretty well defeats the purpose of this whole fan thing. What I'm saying is, the emotional Huddy pick is for the good Cougs to win by multiple touchdowns.
However, Bloguin doesn't pay me the big bucks to just throw out haphazard emotional opinions. I'm here to be an analyst. Alright, that's a bunch of crap, but I'll try anyway. While my heart says Wazzu wins, my brain just can't get there. In the long run, I think it will benefit this year's squad to face a tough test on the road out of the gate. It will not serve us well in the short run, though. We'll head to Provo with enough talent to give BYU one heckuva good fight, but we'll also be lining up six dudes on defense making their first collegiate start. I believe in the Air Raid, but I think in it's first time in a real game, there will be enough hiccups to not be able to overcome the liability that is our in experienced defense.
I expect this game to go back and forth early, but at some point in the second half, the Wazzu offense will either stall or make a couple significant mistakes and the defense just won't have enough to bail them out. I see this one as BYU 38 - WSU 31. I sincerely hope I'm wrong. Go Cougs.
Can you imagine being Oregon State this morning? They had their opener postponed since Nicholls State is currently in the path of Hurricane Isaac. That would definitely ruin my day. As it is we are still GAME ON for our tilt with BYU tonight and Amieable and I are on our way to Provo as soon as she gets a pesky little early season quiz out of the way in her last class of the day.
As for my pick? I am having the same head vs. heart conflict that Huddy is suffering. My heart says we've turned the corner and are ready to start harvesting the fruits of our rebuild effort. No longer do we have to wring our hands over matchups with good, but not great Mountain West teams (that just happen to be independent). I also watched BYU quite a bit last year and never was impressed. Just when I've got myself all "ginned up" for a victory, my head intervenes and says... "No way."
Not having Laurenzi, or Cooper on the deffensive line leaves us too thin against a team looking to establish a power running game. Also, unveiling a new offense and defense on the road against a veteran squad can only mean one thing... mistakes. This is a serious test and we're going to look like those early season Hoosiers, still trying to grasp the concept of "4 passes" and whatever else our crazy new version of coach Norman Dale has asked of us.
I can only hope that even in defeat, this team at least shows us that we have a lot to look forward to and a couple weeks of favorable matchups to work out the kinks before conference play.
BUT THEN MY HEART INTERVENES AGAIN and says we are too fast, too focused and too lean and mean to lose to a fat, old, slow, sissfied BYU team that just happens to be WAY too overconfident. Here's to a victorious rendition of the fight song with our boys after the clock hits 0.00.
Our Cougs - 41, other Cougs - 33