TwistNHook: WSU. At home. Is this a game we can win?
Then again, last year WSU finally started to show signs of life. It took a Jeremy Ross miracle (kind of like a Christmas miracle) to beat them. They even knocked off constant Cal foe, Oregon State. The quarterback Tuel was slinging it out there. This isn't 2008's doormat anymore. But still. At home. We got this one, right? Right?
NorCalNick: The big question will be how far along the 'Longest Rebuilding Plan Ever' has progressed. Clearly the Cougs have made major strides towards respectability, but Cal should be expected to beat your average respectable Pac-12 team at home.
By the time WSU rolls into AT&T they will have played five Pac-12 games including Stanford and Oregon, so we'll have a good sense of how far they have progressed (or, God forbid, regressed).
When you look at his stat line (59.8%, 2780 yards, 18TDs, 12 interceptions) he looks like a solid quarterback. But when you look at his situational stats, you get a completely different story.
When the Cougs are tied or have the lead he completed 50.8% of his passes, tossed 1 TD, and threw 4 interceptions.
When the Cougs are losing by a TD or less, he completed 52.7% of his passes, threw 2 TDs, and threw 1 interception.
When the gap grew to 8-14 pts, his completion rises to 61.7% and he has 8TDs and 3 interceptions.
When his team was losing by 15+ points, the completion rate rises to 69.9% with 7TDs and 4 interceptions.
Similarly, as the game progresses, his stats improve. His 1st quarter QB rating is 94.27, rising to 130.22 in the second quarter, 132.27 in the third, and a brilliant 177.59 in the fourth (more often than not the opponent built up an insurmountable lead by this point).
What this tells us is that Tuel is a great QB when the opponent backs off and sends in its second and third-string units. When the game counts, he has not yet been able to make the plays to help his team win (nor has he had the O-line to allow him to make those plays). Paul Wulff addressed this issue at media day and stressed that "[Tuel} needs to be able to take a team on his back and carry it. When games are tight, he needs to be able to make the plays that win the games."
I don't doubt that Tuel can be a decent QB. But until he puts up solid numbers when the game is still on the line, I will not expect him or WSU to have much prowess on offense.
TwistNHook: Of course, Tuel needs somebody to throw to. At Pac-12 Media Day, Coach Paul Wulff brought wide receiver Jared Karstetter. At 6'4" and over 200 pounds, Karstetter is a large target for Tuel. I believe he is bigger than any corners we have. Here are his stats from last year:
So, Karstetter is one to keep an eye out for. Tuel to Karstetter could be problematic, but I think that with Cal's improving defense, we can handle him.
Kodiak: Normally, you look at a team with four senior starters on the Oline, a capable junior QB, and a stud senior WR as a credible threat. In Wazzu's case, maybe it's not such a good thing that their Oline came back. They were absolutely awful last year. Although Tuel can play, he's really hurt by the fact that Wazzu simply couldn't run the ball at all. (117th in the nation) Perhaps another year of coaching 'em up will help...*crickets*.
On defense, their secondary was very young last year, and all of their starters are back. They do have some young talent on the Dline, although there are rumors that two of their best defensive players might be academic casualties. If I were their punter, I'd probably be doing 'roids because I know that I'm going to have to kick all game long. Although they have recruited better the last couple of years, Coach Wulff has stated that he would prefer not to play the younger players. It's an interesting decision considering that Coach Wulff might not be around long enough to see his young talent actually play.
Our front seven should be able to contain the run and pressure Tuel with our base look. That leaves us able to double Karstetter and take the gamble that none of their other wideouts can beat us one on one.
On offense, we just have to remember to put our uniforms on...and maybe not turn it over. Seriously. If Wazzu were going to knock us off, it should have been last year at home with our holder playing QB.
The Cougs are going to upset somebody this year. It sure as hell had better not be us. Wulff does have them playing better with each year, and I really hope our guys don't go into this one over-confident. This one should be dominating victory - I just don't see Wazzu having the horses to go on the road and pull out an upset.
TwistNHook: Any score predictions?
Berkelium97: Though their offense may improve marginally, I don't have much reason to believe the Cougs will not have the conference's worst defense once again. Like Kodiak said, all we have to do is show up and we will be able to put some points on the board. Since Pendergast is going to make them punt all day, the Cougs are going to miss their star punter Reid Forrest.
Cal jumps out to a big lead and Tuel puts up more great numbers in garbage time. Final score: Cal 45, WSU 24
OhioBear: Wazzu was God-awful in 2008. They were better in 2009 than in 2008. And they were considerably better in 2010 than in 2009. So even though they might be baby steps, Paul Wulff's team is improving. And they have a good QB in Jeff Tuel and a legitimate go-to target in Karstetter.
I'd be more worried if this game were in Pullman. I know that the Cougs have some optimism heading into this year, but I just don't see WSU pulling this one off on our adopted home field. WSU might be better than last year, but so is Cal. And let's not forget: Coach P's defense stifled the Cougs' offense last year. The game would have been a blowout but for our offensive ineptitude.
Cal's defense plays like it did in last year's game, but the offense is much better. WSU hangs around, but Cal wins this one 38-17.
HydroTech: WSU could easily be riding a 5 game lose streak coming into this game against Cal. They are @CO, @UCLA, home against Furd, home against Oregon State, then @Oregon... and then @Cal. That's a pretty tough Pac-12 run for the Cougars.
Here's a fun fact. Last year, WSU's starting QB Jeff Tuel was sacked a whopping 48 times. That's 4 times a game. Actually, that doesn't seem that bad for WSU. It definitely could have been worse. But when you break it down to sacks per pass attempt, it breaks out to 48 sacks / 366 pass attempts = 13.1% sack rate. That's just ungodly high. With Cal's pressure defense and fast linebackers, I'm expecting Cal to get plenty of pressure and sacks on Tuel (or whomever WSU's QB is at game time).
I see Cal winning this game pretty easily. Cal may not be the strongest team in the Pac-12 North, but Cal is certainly far from being as bad as WSU.
Cal wins 38-14.
Berkelium97: As a final thought, even if the Cougs finish last in their division, if I were a Coug fan I'd give Wulff at least another year. He's slowly making progress and by next year he might even challenge for the top half of the conference (unlikely, but not inconceivable). Baby steps. Wulff can't have terrible luck forever--he's bound to have a healthy team one of these years, right?
LeonPowe: He's recruiting really well - and that is difficult in Pullman, so I think they'll eventually right the ship. But not this year against us. (Please?)
NorCalNick: Even if Cal regresses and the Cougs take a big step forward, they shouldn't be losing to a team like WSU at home. Cal takes it, 41-17
atomsareenough: I, too, feel compelled to offer my opinion tempered with Juju-appeasing caveats about how Wazzu has been improving steadily and that gosh, I sure hope we're not one of the teams that they surprise this year, because I sure don't want to get Coug'd! anytime soon...
But anyway, I think that of course it's possible, but it's not particularly likely. Our defense should be able to keep them under 20, and I think they don't have an answer for some of our playmakers on offense. We win it by a comfortable, but not exactly blowout 33-17 margin, is my guess.