WSU Football Friday on Thursday, USC Edition

Happy Football Friday on Thursday Cougs.  Time to take a look at this week’s game, plus we weigh in with our picks around the PAC-10.

And speaking of picks, yes, don’t forget about the Yahoo pick’em for this week.  Once again, here’s the login info:

Group #1:
Go here.
Group: 14767
Password:gocougs

Group #2:
Go here.
Group: 16079
Password:wazzufbblog

Now, on to our picks for the week!

SEANHAWK SEZ:

So are you all jacked-n-pumped for the men of Troy to roll into Pullman?  You know, I have kind of been up-and-down about this game.  Early in the week I thought “great, just when we were playing better we have to face USC”.  Then I heard Wulff speak on his radio show, and then on KJR in one of his best interviews I have ever heard from him, and I started to get excited.  I started to drink the crimson Kool-aid, you know what I mean?  Yeah, these kids are young and restless, but they are making progress ON THE FIELD, finally.  And USC doesn’t seem to have that “USC smell” anymore, and it started to dissipate last year in Smilin’ Pete’s final season in LA…..but ARE they still USC??  Read on, my friends….

Here’s the thing – yeah, they looked like crap vs. Hawaii, where they surrendered 36 points and an amazing 459 yards through the air to a non-BCS team.  I mean really, think about that for a second, let that sink in.  USC gave up that much to any team is crazy enough, but to do that against a non-BCS team??  It’s just, I don’t know, weird.  They did improve defensively the next week, giving up just 14 pts and 340 total yards.  But they only won by three points, 17-14 at home, and didn’t look very good the entire evening. 

Finally, last week vs. Minnesota.  SC wins it 32-21, but the Golden Gophers gave them a game, in fact they actually led the game with 5 minutes and change left in the third quarter.  This is the same Minnesota that has one win on the season, a struggle vs. Middle Tennessee in the opening week…..and they lost to S Dakota at home the next week, giving up 41 points in the process!  And THAT Minnesota team gave SC a game???  Hmmmm.

I guess of everything we’ve seen so far, even if it is hard to believe, this is not the SC that we are used to.  I don’t know if it’s a confidence issue, or that they are playing just too many young players who are trying to adjust to all the new coaches.  And maybe the probation thing is something that is in the back of their minds, knowing that no matter what happens, they won’t get to a bowl game or have any say in the national championship picture.  That’s just not something they are used to, in fact Rose Bowls and national titles are a huge reason these kids go to SC in the first place.  Take that away, well, who knows what that does to the motivation? 

All THAT said, unfortunately it looks like our Cougs might be the worst team USC will play this young season.  Yes, Minnesota, Virginia and Hawaii are probably better than us right now.  The gap has closed, and to be honest, Minnesota, VA and Hawaii have all been pretty disappointing so far, all 1-win outfits with the lone win against a lower-division opponent.  Just like WSU.  But the Cougs are likely the worst of the bunch so far.

However, I think it’s actually encouraging for Saturday.  WSU is closer to the pack than before, but we still have a ways to go.  That isn’t a surprise to any of you who have watched this team, but while we are still a one-win outfit, there is more talent and big-play ability in Coug clothing than we have seen at any point in the Wulff era. 

But in the end, SC just has more playmakers than we do.  Matt Barkley already has nine TD passes in just three games, completing an impressive 65% of his passes and has turned it over just twice.  I thought highly of Barkley last year, but he sure looks like he has taken a big step forward this year.  And I am really concerned about how the Cougs will do against SC’s stable of running backs.  The last big-time rushing attack we saw, OK State’s Kendall Hunter put on an absolute clinic against an overmatched Coug D that just couldn’t keep up.   While Hunter is BIG TIME, SC’s four-headed monster at tailback with Marc Tyler, Allen Bradford, CJ Gable and Dillon Baxter could be an absolute nightmare on Stadium Way on Saturday.  They will come at the Coug D in waves, and I just don’t think we have the depth, strength and experience to keep up. 

I think the Cougs keep it close early, and it will be interesting into the third quarter.  But SC will pull away with their deep running game, and Matt Barkley will make some big throws to put this thing to bed.  SC wins it, 44-24.  But hey, at least we’ll cover for the second week in a row!  Baby steps, Cougs, baby steps.

Other games:

UCLA @ Texas- Nice job by UCLA getting off the mat.  Now they don’t have to worry being an 0-fer team going into the Coug game next Saturday.  They’ll still lose though, and lose big in Austin.  Horns hook ‘em, 45-17.

Cal @ Arizona- AZ will have to dig deep in their emotional tanks after last week’s huge win vs. Iowa, but I don’t think it will be a problem since we are now in Pac-10 play.  And AZ has a nice little home field edge brewing, just three losses at home since 2008.  And Cal, a blowout loss at Nevada?  REALLY?  Are we already laying down Cal?  I thought you usually waited until October before you went into hibernation.  I guess we’re getting a head start this year.  AZ beats down on Cal, 48-30.

Oregon @ ASU- Nice job by the Devs to hang in at Wisconsin, never an easy place to play.  A missed PAT kept the game from going OT, but alas, it’s still a loss.  Nobody doubts the ASU D, but that O, well, I’m still not sold.  And wow, is Oregon just SICK right now or what?  I can’t imagine anyone but Stanford hanging with them in the Pac-10 this year.  Ducks struggle early in this one, but sprint away with a finishing kick, 38-19.

Stanford @ Notre Dame- It clearly looks like Stanford, Oregon and AZ are the class of the Pac-10, and some might even say that Stanford is the most complete team in the conference.  Notre Dame is shell-shocked after last week’s loss on the fake field goal, and they won’t get off the mat against this Cardinal team.  Stanford 31, Notre Dame 21.

Oregon State @ Boise State-Eeesh.  See, I’m NOT a BSUJC fan – at all.  Kellen Moore is very good, and they are well-coached.  But my heart is going over my head this week.  Quizz Rodgers runs for 150 yards, and best of all, the Beavs control the clock with the running game while the home crowd sits on their blue asses.  Beavs 27, Broncos 23.

All for now.  GO COUGS!

LUCAS COUG SEZ:

Stanford at Notre Dame: The Trees haven’t won in South Bend since the early 1990′s and the Irish have won 7 of the past 8.  So what.  This Stanford team is loaded (remember I picked them to win the league?) on both sides of the ball.  I have a hard time seeing the Irish pulling off the upset here, sorry Brian Kelly.  Harbaughs 34 – Fledgling Irish 20

UCLA at Texas:  I was shocked to learn the Bruins romped Houston like they did (and so was my Sportsbook account).  I knew Case Keenum was out, but still was all over the Other Cougs at -4.  What I didn’t know while checking the score on my phone while at a charity auction with my potential, maybe someday, future in-laws, was that the Other Cougars also lost their #2 QB.  The Longhorn defense looks pretty solid and UCLA’s offense is still poop.  What is the old saying, “an unmovable object meets an unstoppable force”?  Yeah, the unmovable object is the football in the Bruins hands.  Hook Em’s 34 – fUCLA 13

Oregon at Boise State Junior College:  Oregon State has yet to show us anything.  We at least know Boise can move the ball.  This is ESPN Gameday’s Westcoast Warmup, as I’m sure they return in a few weeks for Stanford at Eugene.  Broncs 28 – Beavs 20

Cal at AirZona:Well headed into last week, Cal had the #1 defense in the country, fresh off a thrashing of our future conference foe Colorado.  Then they actually had to face a legit offense.  AirZona shocked everybody last week with a beatdown of Big 10 power, Iowa.  Look for more of the same, here.  Not So Mildcats 42 – Cal 17

Oregon at ASU:  This is going to be the first, true defensive test for the Oregon offense.  I have a feeling they’re going to rip it to shreds.  ASU has a few ties to the Ducks in Aaron Pflugrad and Bo Moos (yes that is Bill’s son).  The only question is how many do the Quacks hang?!  Donald Ducks 45 – ASU 17

U$C at Wazzu:Earlier in the week I was thinking I would go out on a limb and take the Cougs here.  We have a few things going for us here:

1) Continual improvement each week

2) Martin Stadium.  Believe it or not, the Student Section was very rowdy from start to finish vs Montana State, even when we were down 22-7.

3) UW visits U$C next week, and I have a hard time thinking U$C isn’t out for revenge after last season.

4) U$C has proven nothing.  Their D was lit up by Hawai’i.  Then they returned home and barely beat UVA.  Last week they were in Minnesota, where they escaped 12 point victors.  In Week 2, the Gophers lost at home to an FCS opponent.  $C has yielded more passing yards than any other team in the league.  Hello Jeff Tuel!!

5) In the first 22 days of the college football season, the Trojans will have traveled to Hawai’i Minnesota, and Pullman.  What is that, 9,000 miles?

Anyways, I see this one being closer than many of the so-called experts think.  Children of Troy 38 – WSU 35 Overtime.

LONGBALL SEZ:

Greetings Coug fans,

Its time for that annual rite of passage that every Pac-10 team (except one) has to face each year… a showdown against the mighty Trojans of USC. They are the standard bearers for our conference, whether you like it or not, and the ultimate measuring stick, year in and year out for where your team stands in the Pac-10 pecking order. It just so happens that as the Trojans appear to be on a trajectory towards something resembling mediocrity, our Cougs are less poised to strike then at almost any time in their history, save for the last 2 years. Timing is everything.

Lane Kiffin has a squad that is grasping for an identity and letting lesser teams within reach in each of their first 3 games. Lets just hope it doesn’t finally “click” for the Men of Troy this Saturday in Martin. Paul Wulff’s boys are still talking about that far off day when they will put together a complete 4 quarters of football against an FBS opponent. While I don’t see this as a 2008-style effortless curb stomping, I still don’t posses sufficient imagination to envision the upset. That’s not to say there isn’t the tiniest flicker of hope…

Trojans 42, Cougs 24

Elsewhere in the Pac-10, we have 3 HUGE non-conference games on tap…

UCLA @ Texas- We’re not the only Cougars who struggle to keep their QB healthy! Great win for UCLA last week, but backup QBs have a way of making other teams look good, and the backup to the backup, well we know what thats like. Texas ought to be too much for the Bruins at home.  Horns 38, Bruins 17

Cal @ Arizona- I’m going out on a limb here and predicting that a re-energized and motivated Cal catches an overconfident Zona team napping. Its too early yet for Cal to totally fade and Arizona’s special teams can’t pull too many more rabbits out of their hats.  Bears 40, Cats 38

Oregon @ ASU - Two teams with questionable schedules so far, but both were impressive on the road in hostile environments. Oregon shook off a slow start to go on and crush Tennessee while ASU dropped a heartbreaker to a very good Wisconsin side. I’m not too amped about Oregon leading the nation in everything since they padded their stats against the likes of Portland State and New Mexico, but I’m not ready discount them yet either.  Ducks 35, Devils 21

Stanford @ Notre Dame- The Cardinal are quietly blowing through their schedule as if facing no resistance whatsoever. Notre Dame is reeling from a defeat so shocking in East Lansing that the opposing coach had a coronary! Cardinal tide rolls on in South Bend…Card 35, Irish 28

Oregon State @ Boise State- Beavs go into the Treasure Valley which has been a graveyard for BCS and non-BCS foes for the last few years. Although I don’t believe this Boise State team could go undefeated facing the rigors of a BCS conference schedule, they would still challenge for the top spot in any conference in the country right now. The early season Beavs just aren’t quite good enough to pull off the shocker.  Broncs 42, Beavs 28

Enjoy the games folks, and GO COUGS!

COUG-A-SUTRA SEZ:

Hello Followers.  Hope you’ve had a great week.

Well, as we head into the second quarter of the season, I have to admit that my heart and soul is in a bit of chaos. And, at the crux of that chaos, is this week’s game against Conquest.

As I told you all before the season began, USC represents the most overrated team in the country.  And nowhere is their “over-ratedness” more evident than in their declining national rank each week IN SPITE of having a 3-0 record.

So, on paper, this SC group looks like a team that can be had.  And, for that reason, I gave you all a “bank on it” stamp before the season began that this game would, in fact, be competitive.

Of course, my “bank on it” statement was given based on a faulty assumption that our offense would be further along than it is at this point.  Put simply, we are about two weeks behind where I thought we would be at this point in the season. And, as such, I think we’re not quite ready to hang in this one.

As I told SeanHawk earlier in the week, my review of the SMU game brought back a LOT of memories about our game @Hawaii a few years ago.  In that game (which I streamed on my computer), we had a slew of opportunities for big plays.  And while Wulff did offer some criticism of Jeff Tuel over the week, I thought he was actually being nice to our young lad–there were A LOT of missed opportunities against SMU!

The good news is that we really do have some weapons now on offense.  And, although our running game still needs a lot of work, we are actually improving rapidly in that department–at least to these eyes.  So, at this point, our needs are two fold: (1) We need to block better; and (2) Tuel needs to be able to check down to his third or fourth read at a much quicker pace (and this of course is dependant in part on need #1).

Thankfully, I have the utmost confidence that Tuel will get there–I just don’t think it will happen this week.  So, expect us to generate a few big plays that lead to scores, and a few nice drives that fail to get any points.  Again, I know I’m stating the obvious, but in order to win you have to score more than the opposition.  And at this point in the season, we just don’t have enough scoring power to be a serious upset threat against anyone.

Cougs lose an almost competitive game 38-17.

Texas 31  UCLA 21.  It wasn’t too long ago that UCLA lost this one something like 66-6.   And certainly this one could end up in a similar fashion.  But, as much as I don’t like UCLA, I think that Texas currently constitutes the most overrated top 10 team out there.  I think this one is going to be much closer than expected.

Boise State 41  Oregon State 20.  Each year the Beavs start slow and then notch it up big time in October.  Each year the pundits think that Boise State can’t possibly live up to the hype only to watch the Smurfs play the best on the biggest stages.  I expect none of these trends to change in this game.  SMURFS win and win BIG.

Oregon 41 ASU 10.  Kelly smells the big one.  And there’s no reason to expect that the Quack will take their webbed feet off the gas anytime soon.  And yes, that signals a horror show for our homecoming in a few weeks.

Arizona 31  CAL 30.  Big win for the CATS last week accompanied by an equally big LOSS by Mr. UnderAchiever Jeff Tedford.  So what you have is a team desperate to bounce back playing against a team that is probably a bit full of itself.  The result: a VERY close game.

Stanford 41  Notre Dame 17.Yep, this could be way, way off.  But Kelly is an offensive genius who inherited a pretty weak defense.  Against a high powered offense like the Trees, that does not bode well.  If Stanford comes close to this type of output, then they deserve to be in the top 10.  And boy, do I wish their match-up with the Quack was four weeks later than next week.

Enjoy the games and lets hope that somehow Troy can fail to avoid another September upset.  How SWEET would that be???

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