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CGB Pre-Season: Washington State University Roundtable

TwistNHook: What does Wazzu need to do to beat Cal this year? Last time we were in Pullman, Cal put up 66, IIRC. Do you see there being anything different this time around?

Berkelium97: Wazzu can't continue to be this bad, right? That can't keep losing players to injury or suffering other misfortunes.

This might be the year Washington State finally breaks through. Wulff is finally starting to get a large pool of players he has recruited. They have more than 40 players with starting experience. It's not inconceivable that Washington State will surprise someone and steal a Pac-10 win this year. Will it be Cal? Most definitely not, but their QB Jeff Tuel may be looking forward to this one.

Tuel had a career day against Cal last year (28-42, 354yds, 2TD). That was more than twice as many yards as he gained against any other team and nearly half of his total yards for the year. If Pendergast's defense somehow gives up those kinds of numbers, it will be another long and painful season for the Cal defense.

NorCalNick: Washington St. lost their 9 conference games last year by an average margin of 31 points. Pretty ugly. But not too bad when you consider that in 2008 the margin was 54 points! So if WSU has the same amount of improvement, they'll only lose each game by an average of 8 points. That would be downright respectable, and probably result in a few wins. I have no idea if Paul Wulff has restocked enough talent and healthy bodies to pull it off though.

Berkelium97: If he keeps this up, he'll win by an average of 15 points per game next season and by 38 points the following season. I'm calling it now: Washington State--2012 National Champions!

Kodiak: A perfect storm of youth, injuries, and lack of depth hit the Cougars last year. Add in the fact that they simply haven't played really well together and there's a good reason they've been the conference doormat for the last few years. However, as the Oregon State Beavers have proven (and the '02 Bears - sigh), a program in the Pac-10 can turn things around in a hurry.

In theory, they should be bolstered by several returning starters, talented players coming back from injury, and touted JC transfers. I still think they're going to struggle, but I doubt they'll be quite as epically bad as they were last year.

On offense, they have a proven Pac-10 caliber running back in ex-Bear James Montgomery.(provided he's fully recovered from injury) They have a QB competition between Tuel and Lobbestael. Both of them have shown flickers of potential - Lobbestael won a Pac-10 player of the week award two seasons ago (pre-injury) and Tuel threw for 354 yards against us last year. They return 4 experienced wideouts, including one that garnered honorable mention all-league honors last year. Their O-line returns 4 starters and should be deeper/more experienced.

On defense, they have a DE(Long) who earned honorable mention all-league honors as a true freshman. They return a ton of guys on the line, at LB, and at DB with starting experience. Whether maturity and health are enough for significant experience remains to be seen.

TwistNHook: Washington State has its own football blog, First And Crimson. It's pretty awesome. Here is a video of fall camp:

Kodiak: On special teams, they return both their placekicker and punter. Their punter's leg probably looks like he has gout or elephantitis after last year's workout.

This game comes sandwiched between the two Oregon schools. Normally, you'd think the guys might be looking ahead to the Ducks. But although it's possible we come in overconfident and high after upsetting the Beavers, it's more likely we come in grimly determined and in need of a bounce-back win.

I still worry about this game. I remember all too well the "Curse of the Palouse," and all of the weird things that have happened up there over the years. Just like it's hard for a basketball player to shoot with an eerily empty background behind a basket, it's hard for a football team to get fired up to play in a near-empty quasi-haunted ghost town of a stadium. As bad as Wazzu has been, they're still a Pac-10 team and we do not want to be the upset win they brag to console themselves for the rest of the year. The longer they stay in the game, the more dangerous they become. If we come in flat and unfocused, it could be more a more stomach-churning affair than it should be. If we're truly a better team than last year with improved internal leadership, this is a game where we come in and assert ourselves immediately. But, because we simply can't ever do things the easy way...I expect us to struggle out of the gate. However, we'll be able to lean on our running game and we simply have more playmakers. It'll be a closer game than the final score, but we win this one going away. 38-17, Cal.

TwistNHook: Regarding offense, WR Daniel Blackledge hopes to make a difference for the Cougs:

PULLMAN – As Daniel Blackledge was talking after practice Monday, cornerback Nolan Washington walked by and shared a one-word opinion of Blackledge’s day.

"Lucky," the redshirt freshman joked.

"It takes that too," Blackledge responded, flashing a grin.

Maybe, but the plays Blackledge, a senior wide receiver, made in Washington State University’s second football practice of the season had little to do with luck.

A diving catch on a long pass from Marshall Lobbestael in seven-on-seven. Another tough over-the-shoulder grab on a long Connor Halliday toss. And, finally, in the scrimmage portion late in practice, laying out to gather in Jeff Tuel’s slightly errant deep ball.

HydroTech: If there's one game that I hope WSU wins, it's against ASU, because I just bet the under on ASU wins totaling 6 for the 2010 season! Oh noes!

OhioBear: How much of a long suffering and neurotic Cal fan am I? This much:

I'm worried about this game.

F'realz. Well, kinda f'realz. My logical side says we should be all right. We are more talented than Washington State and have controlled the games (to say the least) against them the last two years. If we come to play and play reasonably well, we should win.
But will I put a "W" next to this game in indelible pencil? No. And not just because the Juju doesn't like that sort of thing. It's my inability to shake history. Bad history. When Cal beat Washington State at the Palouse in 2006, it marked the first time in Cal fandom, not to mention my Cal-conscious lifetime (about a quarter-century), that we won there. True enough, we followed that up with another win there in 2008 (the epic 66-3 epicness), but I still can't shake the history of the Palouse curse. As vividly as my mind's eye can Jahvid Best run 86 yards for a touchdown in 2008, I also see Pat Barnes fumble a snap at the goal line in 1996. As much as I can remember dominating WSU there in 2006 behind Beast Mode and a smothering defense, I can also remember Ryan Leaf leading the Cougs to a 56-6 lead in the 3rd quarter in 1997 before calling it a day. No matter what, a trip there gives me pause.
Then there is the memory of Jeff Tuel torching us for a bazillion yards last year. Ugh. Yeah, we won big, but it wasn't fun to hear Tuel complete pass after pass. Can he or Lobbestael do that to us again? Perhaps. But I think we also have our share of offensive firepower that WSU will have trouble keeping up with. If it's a "normal" game, we should win.
Prediction: Cal 42, WSU 21

TwistNHook: The guys over at CougCenter are trying to figure out what to expect this year. It looks ugly for them:

The gap between WSU and the rest of the Pac-10 resembles the Grand Canyon heading into the 2010 season. The statistics from last year illustrate this point.

WSU 9th Place Team
Yards per game 248.6 334.4
Passing yds/gm 177.9 180.3
Rushing yds/gm 70.7 114.6
Scoring 12 21.8

Oregon, by the way, was the 9th place team in passing yards per game.

The Cougs were not only last in the Pac-10 in every major statistical category, but near the bottom of the NCAA. It wasn't just that WSU was bad; it became a chore just to watch them play on Saturdays. Games just weren't enjoyable in person or on TV.

Part of the problem last year was games were over before they began. The Cougs were outscored 162-6 in the first quarter of games, only scoring in the first quarter in two contests. When broken down on a per game basis, opponents scored more in the first quarter than the Cougs did in a whole game, on average. It's tough to settle in to watch a game when it's over before the first bathroom break.

OUCH! How many games do you guys think WSU will win this year?

Atomsareenough: 3, and I think one of them will be a Pac-10 team.

TwistNHook: Which team?

Atomsareenough: If I had to guess, ASU or Stanfurd.

TwistNHook: Both of those games are away games for WSU. So, you think WSU will beat Stanfurd in Palo Alto?

Atomsarenenough: Does Palo Alto really confer some significant homefield advantage?

Fair point about the away games though. Honestly, it's hard for me to say they'll go winless in conference play two years in a row, but it's hard to really point at any individual game and say, "THAT'S a game they're likely to win". They got demolished last year by UCLA and Washington (at least according to the final score), but maybe because those games were toward the end of a brutal season and the team's spirit was just gone by that point. Maybe they'll be a little more hopeful in the beginning of the season after a couple of non-conference wins against Montana State and maybe SMU? They play USC at home to start off the season, and perhaps if they're still in disarray...? It seems so preposterous though, that the Trojans could possibly get beaten by the Cougs. I think they have it in them to surprise someone, though. I just hope it's not us.

Berkelium97: It would be a shame if Wulff got fired before he can make use of all the players he has been redshirting. He is set on letting his players develop and mature before playing them, even if it means losing several games and being stuck with a thin roster. Will WSU be a consistent bowl team when Wulff has a team full of his own seniors and juniors? Probably not, but they could get to a bowl game down the road.

Washington State fans should expect an improvement over last season. Realistically, I could see them winning two or three games. I wouldn't be shocked if they win four. If they lose to Montana State, all bets are off--the Cougs will go winless. That, however, seems unlikely. They ought to notch a win against Montana State. They could beat Southern Methodist again and they might even steal a win at ASU or at UCLA. Three or four wins would mean a successful year for Wazzu.

Kodiak: 2 games. They'll beat Montana St. SMU killed Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl - they're a good program. The schedule is just unkind...Wazzu's home games are a murderer's row. They'll be more competitive, though. They'll win their 2nd game against either ucla, 'furd, or asu on the road.

OhioBear: No more than 2 wins. I think they beat Montana State. Then they'll steal one on the road. I just don't know which one it will be. I'll guess ASU, though I hope it is Ucla.

I don't see them beating Stanfurd.

HydroTech: Yikes. Looking at WSU's schedule, they could possibly finish with only one win in 2010 -- against Montana State.

I think overall, WSU will be a better team in 2010 than in 2009. WSU is returning quite a few players on offense -- pretty much everyone except their RB, TE, and LT. So with 8 offensive returning starters, you'd think they'd improve from last year's dismal offensive outputs. However, I don't think their improvements will be enough to catch up to the rest of the Pac and put them in real competitive games. You never know though. I for one would like to see WSU do better for Wulff's sake. He's trying his best with what little he has (remember a few years ago when WSU had open tryouts for QB?) in a pretty competitive conference.

yellow fever: Tuel certainly seems like he could be a decent QB based on his stats last year, but there doesn't appear to be much reason to believe that they're suddenly going to make the jump to respectability this season. And as we've said before, returning starters doesn't always much if they guys that are returning weren't good to begin with. Will they be better? Yeah, most likely, but Uncle Ted's pointed out that just about every Pac-10 team has a large number of starters returning this year. That one statistic doesn't necessarily mean much.

That said, just like Hydro and Berkelium, I think it would be a shame if Wulff isn't given the opportunity to stick around and finish what he started. He's a hard guy not to like, and he was put in a tough situation.

Berkelium97: No surprise: Cal wins 45-13