"Gotta keep the Devil, down in the hole..."
Welcome to the 2nd to last week of Cougar football. We are heading to the desert to take on Sparky’s Devils who find themselves with their once promising season on the rocks. Tempe is a place where, historically, Cougar dreams have gone to die. This season our dreams are already as dead as Julius Caesar, so we have that going for us. Since our bowl hopes went up in a mushroom cloud long ago, all we have left is to crush the fragile bowl hopes of one of our peers out of pure bitterness. After a promising start and an early top 25 ranking the Sun Devils are now teetering on the edge at 5-5. Can we help nudge them closer to the brink with an upset? Our blogfathers will weigh in with their thoughts and other Pac-12 picks below the fold...
Since the Cougs have yet to prove to me that they can win at the game of football, I am going to continue to refuse to pick them. The fact of the matter is that we are starting to find some of the effort we need to win conference games, but we are nowhere near the type of execution we would need. This team has some talent deficiencies that the current staff is aggressively addressing, but on top of that this team makes more mistakes than a courtroom stenographer wearing mittens and ear muffs. I expect our traveling blooper reel to continue this weekend and be our undoing despite yet another effort that was more than enough to win. The fact that all the pressure in this game is on the Devils and they are having some QB controversy of their own right now offer some glimmers of hope, if you are still looking for that sort of thing.
Devils 45, Cougs 28
Washington 48, Colorado 10
Since their triumph on the Palouse Colorado has had the absolute piss kicked out of them by everyone. Even Republican pollsters don’t envy the beat downs these guys are absorbing. The Apple Cup will feature a Washington team looking for its 10th win. Ugh.
USC 35, UCLA 28
Matt Barkley has precious little opportunity left to secure a legacy at USC and I don’t think he’s going to let the Bruins get in his way. The fact UCLA is ranked and their chief rival will keep the trojans from peeking ahead to matchups with Notre Dame and potentially Oregon in the Pac-12 championship.
Oregon 50, Stanford 21
In my mind this game looks like a velociraptor against a brontosaurus. Powerful, big and sluggish against fast, fierce and fearless. Stanford is a team that cannot be trifled with, but has anyone ever know Chip Kelly to trifle with anything?
Arizona 44, Utah 17
It may take a couple quarters to get rolling, but Zona will eventually find a groove and the Utes won’t be able to keep up.
Oregon St. 38, Cal 24
The needle on Tedford’s seat temperature gauge moves from “hot” to “Bashir Al-Assad”. Meanwhile, Mike Riley’s approaches absolute zero. Remember when he caught a glimpse of our hot tub?
UW 55 - Colorado 20: While the Huskies aren't so swell in games played away from Seattle, lucky for them, win number seven is on the horizon as they travel to Boulder to take on the Bullshit They're Better Because They Beat Us Buffs. Please, don't try to say the altitude may play a factor, the Buffs are so bad, it don't matter.
UCLA 35 - USC 28 OT: I would absolutely love to know what kind of odds Vegas was offering for UCLA to win the South Division. Don't look know, but the Bruins and Ducks will be meeting in two weeks to square off for the second consecutive year against one another in the Conference Championship Game!
Oregon 63 - Stanford 28: The Ducks have scored 192 points in their last three games and are poised to absolutely bash the Tree and Beavs in the final two weeks. If they aren't playing in the National Championship Game, it will be of their own unraveling.
Arizona 28 - Utah 24: The Schizfrenia Bowl hits SLC this week as two teams that are hot one week and are not the following square off. This bad boy is a coin flip.
Oregon State 42 - Cal 14: Jeff Tedford will be unemployed in less than one week.
ASU 35 - Wazzu 34: You loved the Cougs effort in the second half last week against the Bruins? I did too, but to play Devil's Advocate, is it possible Mora and Co. took the foot off the gas pedal afer staking a 30 point lead going into halftime? These next two weeks are going to tell us a lot about the psyche of this team moving forward. Unfortunately, we haven't won at ASU in more than a decade, and I don't see that streak ending this weekend.
Greetings Cougs, and a happy Football Friday to you and yours. So with everything that's been going on, I can't help but feel a little like John Blake towards the end of the Dark Knight Rises (which comes out on Blu-Ray on 12/4!!!). For those of you who haven't seen the movie, spoilers ahead....
See, near the end of the film Batman apparently sacrifices himself to save the city of Gotham. Blake had been an excellent beat cop for Gotham's finest, but over the course of the movie had slowly become disenfranchised by the inner workings of the Gotham PD. After Blake witnesses Batman's ultimate sacrifice, Blake decides he's had enough and literally pitches his badge off the bridge and into the water below, effectively ending his role as a cop. And if you know how the movie ends, you know that isn't the end of his story (....or the story of the Batman).
Anyway, the point is that when I saw that, I thought you know, I can relate a little bit towards my feeling towards WSU football of late. No, we aren't on the inside or anything like that, but we've been following it so closely over the last several years and we know people in and around the whole thing, so we've taken things personally as to the latest news on Marquess and the whole thing. You just start feeling like is it all even worth it? Maybe pitching the laptop off the bridge and moving on to something else could be a good thing.
And as a "Coug Nation", if there is such a thing, the lines have been drawn since Leach showed up. On one side you have the Leach is a smart winner with years of success and he knows what he's doing. He is trying to turn the mentality of a loser around in one season, and that's a difficult thing to do when all your players know is small wins here and there but the overall body of work is NOT A SUCCESS. And on the other side we have the Leach is an egomaniac, a complete a$$hole who is a fraud and a bully and doesn't have a clue what he's doing. And now the words "abuse" have been floated, it just adds to that side of the line and the argument that this thing is a complete failure.
All I can tell is from where I sit, ever since the season opener this has been one of the most unpleasant experiences I can recall watching sports. And by that I mean being a fan of any team, in ANY SPORT. I've never seen a fan base so torn, and generally so miserable and even hostile towards the other side that doesn't agree with their perspective. Maybe because it was also an emotional election across the country that led to being a complete "you are an idiot if you don't agree with me" mentality this year? But whatever the case, I just can't believe how it's all unraveled so fast. I mean even in the darkest of times in 2008 and 2009, it wasn't like this. Sure you had people claiming Wulff will never figure it out and he was over his head at this level, but at least in those early years people were willing to see it through and let Wulff try and flip the program with his guys. But it wasn't until towards the end of 2010 before you really heard the calls for Wulff's head, almost three full seasons. Here with Leach you had oh, about three GAMES before some people were deciding he was the worst thing to happen to Cougar football!
Anyway, two good things from KJR yesterday that I thought were worth sharing in the get-some-perspective department.
First, a good listen with Bruce Feldman, the writer for CBS who also worked with Leach on his book, as well as the book called "Meat Market", where he spent a season at Ole Miss. Feldman is a smart guy, and even agreed to participate in the Three Questions segment at this here blog! But he has some decent perspective on what's going on, and it is probably worth a few minutes of your time to listen. He doesn't have any breaking news on Leach or anything like that, but it's a good look at things from someone who knows Leach personally and is observing things from afar.
Finally, Ian Furness did a great job of running down the players who have now left the WSU program since Mike Leach took over. Yes, the number is 18 players, or five more than those who left in Paul Wulff's first year (13 players left in 2008). But as Furness asks, did Leach "run" these guys out? Does the headline "18 PLAYERS LEAVE WSU!" grab your attention more than the actual details on each player? It is a good read/run down on those 18 guys, and I will tell you this - before I read it, the 18 players makes it sound like Leach is a bully. After reading it, you see that each individual situation was unique to the player.
None of that means a whole lot right now. Everyone has weighed in with their opinions already, here and elsewhere, and judgment has already been passed based on what we've read and heard in the media. The responsible thing is to wait out the investigations and see what happens, but in the court of public opinion it doesn't really matter. Minds are made up for the most part. I heard one guy call up KJR and say "What do you expect when you hire a guy who locks his players in an electrical closet?!" Of course we know the Adam James thing has been largely debunked, but that's because we read Swing Your Sword or we did the research to realize it was BS. But does the general public know that? I doubt it. They read the headlines and hear the sound bites and have already decided.
As usual, I'm torn on the whole thing. I understand the idea of trying to turn loser menality into a winning one, and how hard that can be to try to accomplish in a quick time frame. Remember that stat from the beginning of the year, that out of 32 new Pac-10/12 coaches over the last 40 years who took over a loser, 27 of them had a losing season in that first year? We can now make that 28 out of 33 with Leach. But the point to that whole stat is that it's HARD TO CHANGE ANYTHING quickly! It takes time.
But on the other side, the word "abuse" just makes my stomach turn. We are in the post-Sandusky era of college athletics, and that abuse word should have always been taken seriously but now the attention and scrutiy is 10-fold. Bill Moos has many roles, but one of his most important things he has to do is look out for the welfare of his student athletes. If something is amiss, I trust Moos and of course, President Floyd, to do what is necessary. If that means showing the coaching staff the door, then so be it. But I'm ready for them to investigate along with the Pac-12 and do everything they can to get the bottom of a potentially ugly situation!
On to the picks:
UW 44, Colorado 10: UW has once again turned it around (and honestly, after they beat Oregon State I told Sutra they would win out and should be favored to do so the rest of the year). But the thing that is impressing me the most about UW right now is that they are winning in different ways. One week they win ugly (Cal), the next week they win pretty (Utah). I think that's a solid indication of what a good team is, a team that can be a little off their game yet still get the W. And with all the injuries UW had to start the year and after the hole they fell into after the Arizona loss, the turnaround is once again remarkable. This is probably Sark's best coaching job yet at UW and he deserves the accolades he's getting right now (yes, that is painful to write but easy to admit reality).
UCLA 30, USC 22: UCLA has it going on right now, SC not so much. As is tradition with rivalry games, this will probably be lower scoring than people think, but the Bruins and Jim Mora are going in one direction while SC under the Kiffin's are going the other way.
Oregon 42, Stanford 21: Not quite "Upset Alert", but I have a feeling Stanford gives them a real fight. The Quacks will pull away at the end as they always do, but they may have their hands full for 3+ quarters?
Arizona 45, Utah 24: The Utes looked like world beaters vs. our Cougs, but then fell flat vs. UW. Arizona has a lot of offensive talent and are definitely capable of putting 40+ up on anyone in the conference on any given Saturday, and I feel a big Mildcat win in this one.
Oregon State 24, Cal 13: Ugly win for the Beavs, as Cal plays out the string of the Tedford era.
ASU 48, WSU 27: As much as I want to be excited about the showing by the Cougs in the second half last week, haven't we seen this act under Paul Wulff? I was burned by the stats and yards and points put up by prior WSU teams in recent years, only to take a step back and realize a lot of it came in "junk time". I remember celebrating "only" losing to Stanford 35-21 in 2010....until you realize it was 35-7 in the third quarter. I could go on, but you know what I'm getting at. And I'm NOT buying that they have turned the corner on this mess of a season, and I especially doubt they can put together a full game on a consistent basis. I guess the only game this year that's happened was at Stanford, but they have gone right back to playing in spurts. I'm thinking we'll get off to a decent start, but then it will fall apart for a couple of quarters. We'll add some yards and points late, but it won't be nearly enough as the frustration continues for another week.
All for now. GO COUGS!