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Hello Cougar Nation.  A tremendous Friday to all of you! Well, yesterday was some day.  In case you missed it, Sutra debuted our new series “Three Questions,” with Brock Huard serving as our inaugural Special Guest star. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Then, later in the day, Chris Hansen rallied an estimated 6,000 folks at Occidental Park in Seattle yesterday for the new arena and the return of the Seattle Supersonics.

So, in view of these exciting developments, I thought it appropriate to return to last week’s “Vegas Style Action.” Our focus: The two teams us west-side Cougar fans like to hate the most. For more on that, read on…

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Nation, before last night’s contest between my current favorite NBA basketball team, the Miami Heat, and Clay Bennett’s band of “Young Guns,” my best buddy SeanHawk told me that he thought that the Heat were not going to win a game in the series.   And although I told him I thought they would, last night’s action down the stretch had me thinking otherwise...

In case you missed it, down 5 with about 30 seconds to go, the Thunder stole the ball from the Heat in their backcourt.  Of course, they did what all great teams do, they quickly found their star.  And Durant didn’t disappoint.  In fact, in true Reggie Miller fashion….

Durant nailed a deep 3 to close the gap to 98-96.  Then, following a Miami miss, Durant had a chance to tie the game with 9 seconds left but missed a short baseline jumper after LeBron James appeared to have fouled him.  James was then fouled and hit two free throws at the other end to seal it, and the Heat won a 100-96 thriller.

Notwithstanding the James’ clutch play last night, I went to bed last night with the feeling that Durant and the Thunder have a mini-dynasty on their hands. Which brings me to today’s first “Schmegas” line……(“Schmegas” is my bookie friend from Tukwilla by the way)

The over-under on the number of championships the Thunder will win with Kevin Durant.

Schmegas sets the over-under at 3 championships.

And the Khan says:  “Take the over.”

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Nation, a few weeks back, I penned a brilliant (cough! Cough!) article about the importance of a fast start for a young, struggling Cougar Football team.  My thesis:  When young teams have the fortune of winning early, they generate the type of momentum and collective competence they need to overcome the injuries and obstacles that present themselves during the course of a long football season (whew!).

Of course, our not-so-pretty brethren to the west stand in stark contrast to that theory.  After all, two years ago, those hapless Muttlakes entered November with a cold 3-6 record and appeared completely dead in the water. 

But thanks to some gutty play-calling as well as a weak schedule down the home stretch, the Dawgs were able to rebound from a VERY disappointing start, went to a bowl game, won their bowl game, and finished the season as the most over-rated AND under-rated 7-6 team in the history of ever.

And then they did the exact opposite last year!  And in so doing, proved once and for all that UW always has it backwards, upside-down, or both…

For instance, we always talk here about how you can beat a promising team early in the season when they have a new guy behind center.  The reason?   Even the most talented young quarterbacks tend to struggle when put in difficult situations early in the season, particularly when they’re asked to play from behind. Of course, Keith Price wanted none of that logic, helping the Mutts pull victories from the jaws of defeat against Eastern Washington, Hawaii, and CAL. 

But they weren’t done there. In fact, near the season’s mid-point, the Dawgs were 5-2, ranked in the top 25, and were seemingly on their way to a return to National Prominence, right?  Well, not so fast my friends.

The Dawgs not only lost a lot of games from that point on, they proceeded to get POUNDED by just about everyone not known as Arizona or some other team we don’t need to mention here… Which brings me to the next and final Schmegas question of the day: 

 What is the over-under for wins for the 2012 version of the Muttlakes?  

Recognizing that the Dawgs will probably find a way to get this all backwards, let's once again revisit that HORRIBLE-FOR-THEM schedule that currently ranks 2nd or 3rd in the country with respect to difficulty…

Game 1.  San Diego State:  Seems like a lay-up, right? Well, maybe not so fast. OSU-transfer Ryan Katz already has game experience in Husky Stadium and the Aztecs 3-3-5 D looks like it could be formidable.  Gotta take the Pups in this one, but if this were my team, I’d hate this game.

Game 2.  @LSU.  Anyone outside of Muttlake Nation knows that the Dawgs are gonna lose this one.  The question is by how little or how much?  But more to the point is the health of the offensive line and the guy behind center after this game.  Will they be walking after this one?  They sure better hope so.

Game 3.  Portland State.  The Dawgs get back to a winning record playing against the Ken Bone coached Portland State Vikings.  Nuff said.

Games 4-6.  Stanford, @Oregon, USC.  To be sure, all Dawg fans are sure that they’ll win at least two of these games.  Could they?  Sure. Will they win even one?  Probably not.  So, at the halfway mark, our boys are gonna be looking at 2-4.

Games 7-8.  @Arizona, Oregon State. At this point, the Dawgs will breathe a sigh of relief, happy to know that the tough stretch is done and a 8-4 season is theirs for the taking. Unfortunately for them, they NEVER play well @Arizona.  What’s more, that Oregon State team that we all like to write off because we beat them two years ago?  Well that same Beaver team returns the 3rd highest number of starters in the conference.  And last I checked, the Beavs went 2-0 against the Washington schools last year, kicking the crap out of both teams in each contest.  In other words, while Muttlake Nation is thinking this is a 2-0 stretch, Schmegas thinks it has Banana Splits written all over it.

Games 9-10 @CAL, Utah.  Who knows what these two teams will look like late in the season?  Will Utah be the 10 win type juggernaut that some have predicted?  Will CAL turn the corner this year and get some quarterback play that enables them to ascend to the second spot in the conference?  Or, will they continue their seemingly endless streak of underachieving mediocrity?  Hard to tell. But given the tenacity of both of these defenses, this too feels like a 1-1 stretch, assuming that the Pups emerge from the season’s first half in a 2-4 hole.

Games 11-12 @CU, @WSU.   And the season closes with a final, “favorable” stretch from the perspective of Dawg fans.  At this point of the season, CU should be beyond thin on both lines and the Huskies should put a real good licking on them, even in Boulder. But then there’s the Apple Cup and a short week to prepare for the Air Raid offense.  Tough to know what to think of this Friday-after-Thanksgiving contest.  I mean, what are we going to be like?  Are we going to be mediocre enough on defense to have a fighter’s chance of slowing the Dawgs down?  Is our offensive line going to be healthy and stout enough for us to score the points needed to win games?  Will the weather allow us to be able to “air it out” in the way we want to? Certainly, the Dawgs will hope not.  But, given that we will have already seen a host of 3-4 defenses at that point of the year, all Dawg lovers should NOT under any circumstance assume a W in this one. In fact, I would pencil this one in as a big fat “L” if I was…..well, never mind…

So, when you put this all together, you can see that Schmegas is a bit wary about all the hype given to the Washington Muttlakes for this particular season.  And for that reason, Schmegas is setting the over-under for UW wins this year at 6. 

And the Khan says, walk away.  It’s a push, and maybe, just maybe, a bit worse.

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That’s all we have for today.  Sean will be back Monday. Enjoy your weekend.  And Go Cougs!