Previewing the Season : Washington State

265_medium  vs.  25_medium

Game #2 : September 6 @ Washington State, 3:30 PM (televised on Comcast Sports Net West).

ragnarok:  I for one am glad to get this roadie out of the way early.  Not that much is expected from Washington State this year (they were recently picked to finish dead last in the Pac-10 recent pre-season media poll), but the Palouse has not been especially kind to the Bears in recent history (though Tedford won his only trip up there with the Bears in 2006).  Though travel to Pullman is never easy, the weather can get dicey later in the Fall, so an early September trip to Wazzu (with an afternoon start time, no less), is just about as good as this trip is going to get.  It's also nice that the first road trip of the year is against one of the least talented teams in the Pac-10 (in terms of recruiting rankings), meaning the Bears don't necessarily have to play their best to come away winners.

Of course, the big story with Washington State is their coaching change, with 'nice guy but shoulda topped out at defensive coordinator' Bill Doba out as head coach, replaced by 'fiery up-and-coming alumnus' Paul Wulff.  Wulff is no stranger to the area, having played center for the Cougars in the late 80's and lately coming off a successful stint at Eastern Washington.  A coaching change such as this can often shake a mediocre team out of the doldrums; will Cal be the upset that gets Wulff's party started?

HydroTech:  Will an upset of Cal be the upset that gets Wulff's party started?  I say highly doubtful.  Doubtful as in "doubtful that an upset of Cal would be quite a party-starter?"  Or " doubtful that WSU will upset Cal?"  I say the latter.  Let me point a few things out.  First off, WSU loses Alex Brink.  While senior Gary Rogers will probably be their starting QB, he only has played in 10 games most of which were garbage time.  This guy hasn't really been battle tested.  For a senior, he hardly has any extensive experience playing an entire game.  And for a senior, he'll also be learning a new offense.

Along with WSU's new coach (Wulff), comes a new OC Todd Sturdy.  Sturdy was Wulff's OC back when Wuff was at Eastern Washington.  Apparently Sturdy is implementing a no-huddle spread offense.  Are things going to be a smooth transition?  Perhaps.  Or perhaps not.  I for one am sort of glad to play WSU early on so we can smack them around while they're still trying to figure out their offense.  I'd prefer to get first dibs on them instead of Oklahoma State, but I guess I'll settle for on deck instead of at bat.

Is there any chance WSU is good on offense?  Well, they return 4 starters on the OL.  Their LT, senior Vaughn Lesuma, seems like he has a chance at being a Sunday player.  WSU also gets back WR Brandon Gibson who averaged 17.6 yards a catch (67 rec.) last year.  He caught 9 TDs last year and was clearly the TD machine of WSU's WRs last year.  Gibson decided not to go pro last year and instead decided to return for his senior year.  That seems like a gutsy decision considering he's without Brink and has to learn a new offense this year but perhaps he thought he wasn't ready for the next level or he liked college girls better.  Make no mistake about it though, Gibson is good.  He'll might even be tagged by some services as an All-American and he'll definitely be on NFL Sunday Ticket next year.

What about WSU's run game?  They return their top two starters: Dwight Tardy and Christopher Ivory.  These two combined for 1000 yards rushing last year and a 4.7 and 5.2 yards per carry average respectively.  With WSU returning 4/5 OL hogmollies and their top two rushers, perhaps the strength of WSU's offense will be their run game.  The question is, with WSU sporting it's new no-huddle spread offence, are they really going to run that much?

TwistNHook:  Yes, my thoughts and views on WSU.  Hmm, well, give me about 45 minutes to do some research and get back to you.

Hey, CBKWit, can you ask your brother his opinion on WSU football this year?  And I'm gonna need an answer in about 45 minutes!

46 minutes later...

TwistNHook:  Well, that bombed.  CBKWit's brother knew as much about Washington State Football as Olsonist knows about successful QBing.

Quick, to Wikipedia!  Paul Wulff is the new coach.

He's a local boy, growing up in Woodland and going to school in Davis.  I always thought that they should have like a "The YC" for Yolo County when the OC was so big.  And it could be all "Oh no, Sebastian is from West Sacramento, we don't talk to him."  Or whatever people from The YC say.

At Eastern Washington State, Wulff went 53-40.  That's a pretty good record.  He played for WSU back in the day, which explains why he'd want to coach there.

Large_pwulfff_medium

Some people like living in Eastern Washington.  No, really! - Image via blog.oregonlive.com

He certainly sounds like a competent enough fellow.  But he's definitely inherited a mess up there.  A mess that we beat by 3 points last year.  At home.

So, let's not get ahead of ourselves here.  Thankfully, we head up there early, so the weather shouldn't be too bad.

9 days later...

CBKWit:  Hey guys, I'm back!  Man, Pullman's a pain in the ass to get to.  Anyway, I finally got something an entire essay from my brother, but it may be a tad on the optimistic side...

BrotherWit:  As a student at Washington State University, I think that there is no such thing as high enough expectations.  When the Cougs (that’s what we call them up in Ryan Leaf country) take the field on a Saturday afternoon in the fall, regardless of where that field is, I expect them to win by no less then thirty-five points.  Is it safe to say that I have been a little disappointed the last few years?  Possibly, but hey, at least we have swept Stanford the last two seasons.

This year, most people pick the Cougs to finish dead last in the Pac-10.  Whenever I read one of these previews, wherein the same poll ASU is supposed to magically pull it together at the end of the season, I think back to my freshmen year at WSU in 2006-2007, when WSU’s basketball team was also picked in the pre-season Pac-10 polls to finish last.  The Cougs surprised everyone by finishing third in the Pac-10 and first-year Coach Tony Bennett was the National Coach of the Year.  Do I sense a little Bennett in first year football coach Paul Wulff?  Of course.  My personal expectations for the 2008 Cougs can be shown in what will be the scores of each game they play this year.

August 30 vs. Oklahoma State @Qwest Field in Seattle

Final Score: Cougs 45 - OSU 3
September 6 vs. Cal @ Martin Stadium
Final Score: Cougs 28 - Cal 21 (This game was close only because I have such a soft spot for the Bears.)
September 13 vs. Baylor @Baylor
Final Score: Cougs 42 - Baylor 0
September 20 vs. Portland State @Pullman
Final score: Cougs 80 - PSU 6
September 27 vs. Oregon @Pullman
Final Score: Cougs 60 - Oregon doesn’t show up due to mass amount of injuries both them and UW suffered in their season opening game in Eugene (this is the ideal situation).
October 4 vs. UCLA @LA
Despite Luc Richard Mbah a Moute coming back for his 18th year of eligibility and the fact that he is consistently average in football and basketball, the Cougs win going away by 100 points.  Final Score: Cougs 120 - UCLA 20
October 11 vs. Oregon State @ Corvallis
Final Score: Brandon Gibson 45 - A reinstated Ken Simonton 0
October 18 vs. USC @ Pullman
The big shocker of the college football year.  Last year on the eve of the Cougs game vs. SC, I predicted we would shock the world.  We lost 55-7.  At least we beat the spread.
Final Score: Cougs 95- USC- 54
November 1 vs. Stanford @Stanford
Final Score: Cougs 57- Stanford total turnovers during the game:  24.
November 8th vs. Arizona @ Pullman
Final score: This will be the closest game all year.  For some reason we're the only team Mike Stoops can out-coach. Cougs 20 - AZ 17
November 15th vs. ASU @Tempe
Final Score: Cougs 60 - ASU 14
November 22 vs. UW @Pullman
Thank god that the Apple cup is home this year.  Every time I enter within 30 miles of UW I start listening to Elvis Costello and critique Contemporary British Theater.  My mom likes it but I can’t deal with it. 
Final Score: Cougs 478 - Huskies 0 (And Husky stadium gets hit by a rogue meteor and is destroyed along with Ryan Appleby.)
November 29 vs. Hawaii @ Hawaii
Final Score: Hey, it's in Hawaii, everyone’s a winner!

If the Cougs finish anything less then 13-0, this Coug fan will view it as a disappointment.  But hey, at least Busch Light comes in 30 packs in Pullman.

Busch_medium

Busch Light : The fuel Coug fans need to keep going.

CBKWit:  These numbers may seem inflated, but I have scored 120 points against UCLA on XBOX NCAA 0something.  So it's definitely possible.

ragnarok:  Sure it is.  BTW, the NCAA record for the most lopsided score is from 1916, when Georgia Tech (coached by one John Heisman - you may have heard of him) beat Cumberland 222-0.  Can Wazzu more than double that record in this year's Apple Cup?  We shall see.

BrotherWit:  I know everyone reading this is completely caught up on the Cougar depth chart and coaching staff, but let me give you a little more exclusive information.

Yellow Fever:  Are you sure that we need more exclusive information?  I'm pretty sure I know the Cougar depth chart well enough.

BrotherWit:

Offense:
QB:  Everyone in Pullman knows Gary Rodgers is going to be the starting man under center.  What they don’t know is how he can adapt to finally being the starter after 3 years of backing up Alex Brink.  The guy is about 6’6" and 230 pounds and can throw the football a country mile.  2 years ago when the Cougs were playing @ Auburn, Gary was inserted for a struggling Alex Brink in the first half, and promptly went 5-5 for 90 yards and a touchdown pass to bring the Cougs back in the game.  Coaching genius Bill Doba, using his superior intellect, brought Rodgers out before the next drive and we lost by 40……..Hmmm makes you wonder.

RB:  Honestly, I think this is the Cougs most underrated position on the team.  Dwight Tardy has started the last two years and has had some big games.  Chris Ivory is a suitable back up who can also be thrown in on any situation and make a big play, just as he showed in last years apple cup.  Both however have had injury problems.  Tardy tore his ACL last year against UCLA on a 50 yd TD run and Ivory has been injured most of the spring.  If they are healthy, watch out.

OL:  The Cougs have 4 returning starting lineman back including center Kenny Alfred.  Last year, the line was actually a bright spot for the team and Alfred has the potential to be all Pac-10. 

WR/TE:  This is easily our strongest area on the team.  First off, Brandon Gibson was the Pac-10’s best receiver last year and is a legitimate All-American Candidate.  Jeshua Anderson, a sophomore wide receiver, is a record setting hurdler and is one of the Pac-10’s best deep threats.  Throw in new sparkplug Michael Willis, who supposedly is having the best off season of any Coug, and the receiver position looks set.  At TE, Devin Frischknecht, is a big target who showed potential to be a solid contributor on the receiving core.

Defense:
The Cougars defense returns some top performers from last years team, but they still need to prove they are tough enough to stop teams from scoring.  Last year, they were not.  Players like OLB/DE Andy Mattingly have the potential to bolster the Coug defense.  Mattingly, as a sophomore, was a menace to quarterbacks from the outside linebacker position. This year, he is bigger, meaner and is going to move closer to the line and play a little D end as well.  On the line he will be joined by returning starters Andy "I have more arrests than the University of Georgia football team" Roof and Fevaea'i Ahmu, a 6’1 senior who has experience and toughness to dominate.  The linebackers will be solid with seniors Cory Evans and Greg Trent.  Both performed well at times last year and this Cougar fan is not nervous about them at all.  And then there is the secondary.  I honestly have no idea who is going to start and I don’t think anyone on the team does either.  Look for Xavier Hicks and Devin Giles to be the top performers even though Hicks has had recent legal trouble that may sideline him this season.

Special Teams:
The kicker is going to be whoever can make a 20-yard field goal.  We may not have one.  The punter is going to Reid Forest, who actually was pretty solid last year and was impressive under some pressure situations.  Pressure situations meaning being down by 150 points in the first half @Oregon last year.  Brandon Gibson, Mike Willis or Jeshua Anderson all could see time at returning punts and kicks and honestly, any one of them would be great.  A quick story about Mike Willis before I move on.  When I was a sophomore at Capital High School in Olympia WA, we played Willis’s Lincoln Abes in Tacoma.  Willis played Safety for the Abe’s defense and during the game he hit a Capital receiver (my ex-girlfriend's brother) so hard across the middle that not only did they guys helmet come off, but the padding within the helmet came apart too.  It just goes to show you how strong and athletic this guy really is.

Well, there you have it, guys, a rundown of the 2008 National Champion WSU Cougar football team.  Maybe I am being a little too optimistic, but as they say in Pullman, "win or lose, we still booze".

Go Cougs and best of luck to the Bears!

TwistNHook:  Ok, ok, please stop, I give up.  They shouldn't waterboard people at Gitmo, anymore.  Just have CBKWit's Brother explain Cougar football.  The terrorists would capitulate in a second!

CBKWit:  Twist, don't be insecure because 4 sentences went by before you could insert a comment.  Quick, go start a DBD before someone else does!  Thanks Wazzu.  Here's my sponsored gmail link from this thread:

Meet Local Cougars - www.DateACougar.com - Find Where To Meet Cougars Near You 100% Free. Join Now!

Predictions? I'll say Cal-27, WSU-20, Busch Light consumed-much, much more.

ragnarok:  Yeah, I think it'll be close.  Neither offense may be playing up to its potential just yet, and Wulff will get the Cougs to play hard, if nothing else.  21-17 Cal, with lots of hoity-toity microbrews consumed by yours truly.

TwistNHook:  4-0 Cal.

Yellow Fever:  41-3 Cal.  Why not?

ragnarok:  Indeed.  Compared to some of these predictions, that seems downright reasonable.

HydroTech:  Longshore 33, WSU 0 (Longshore plays both ways).

CBKWit:  Well, there you have it, folks.  More than you ever possibly wanted to know about the Wazzu football team.  Thanks, bro.

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