Hey, I just lost to Eastern Washington!!!!
“On Sunday night, I usually think we can beat the NY Giants. By Friday night, I’m worried that we can’t beat Pullman High.”
Hello Followers. Hope you’ve had a terrific week.
As many of you know, I’ve been pretty confident about our prospects heading into this weekend’s contest against the Oregon State Beavers.
And for good reason, really. For one, Oregon State’s overall pro-style offense has represented the exact type of team that we’ve matched up with during our past few years of futility. For two, Oregon State, for all of their gaudy passing numbers and so forth—is simply not as good as they were a year ago when they were a really complete team. And for three, well, whereas the past two contests against the Beavs were played in either Seattle and Corvallis, this year’s game is going to be played in front of a SOLD OUT Dad’s Weekend crowd in Pullman.
So given those three points, what could possibly go wrong, right???
Continue reading for my angst-ridden game pick….
As the weekend has drawn near, I have found my angst rising to near record levels. I mean, win this game and we’re 5-2 and right on the doorstep of bowl eligibility. And while I would be pretty shocked to wake up on Sunday to see us ranked in the polls, I wouldn’t be that surprised if we found a way to sneak into the BCS rankings that come up later in the week. The reason: I expect that our computer rankings to be pretty high given the record of our competition (Stanford would be 6-0, Auburn 5-1, USC 4-2, Oregon State 4-2)—just like they were in 2006 when we snuck into the BCS standings at 6-3.
And so, given all the possibilities, it’s pretty easy to think about a loss and just, well, plain freak out.
But if we look at this objectively folks, losing this weekend does not carry the same consequence as if we lost last week. Had we lost against CAL, we were done and headed again for the basement. But if we lose this weekend against Oregon State, we still have a real chance at winning 2 of 3 against the Zonas and Utah. So, even though the road ahead would be a bit steeper than if we won this weekend, there still would be a viable pathway for us to reach six wins.
So, try to keep that in mind if disaster strikes.
Anyhow, there are two primary keys to the game this weekend—each of which carries equal weight and/or importance in my mind. The first is putting pressure on Sean Mannion. If we do that, history suggests that SM will become a turnover machine—much in the same way we’ve seen Connor make silly mistakes whenever he’s pressured consistently. So far, no team has been able to do that to Mannion this year. And because Oregon State is returning key pieces to the O-Line this week, there’s a lot of worry out there that we’re not going to be able to get to him this week.
But in response to that concern (a concern that I share depending on the time of day), I offer you the following counter punch: (a) We got to Mannion consistently last year in Corvallis when they had Wheaton AND Cooks and when Woods was running the ball effectively; and (b) Although our D played well at times last year, that group is nowhere near as good as the group we’re putting on the field tomorrow–and we're playing AT HOME!
So, when I factor in the crowd noise, the endless sea of Cougar Capes, as well as the strength of our front 3 or 4, I think we’re going to be in the offensive backfield for a good part of the day. And that will result in a few turnovers, 3 and outs, and hopefully, a few of their long drives turning into FGs instead of touchdowns.
Of course, the other aspect of the game involves our offense. Last week, we saw our boys break some explosives en route to scoring 40+ points in a conference game for the first time in 10,000 years. On top of that, one could easily suggest that we left another 14-21 points on the field last Saturday. What’s more, although the Beavs are certainly a much better than CAL, their defense has represented one of the bigger disappointments of 2011; they’ve yielded more than 40 points twice this year and gave up 30 to a bad San Diego State team.
And so, it sure would seem that the only thing that could stop us from having another type of 30-40 output is ourselves. And therein lies the real key to the game—at least for me.
Followers, since we beat SC a few weeks ago, we’ve talked about the fact that this team is increasingly adopting Mike Leach’s personality. And you can bet that all week he and the coaches have been preaching about creating a hostile environment for other teams in Martin Stadium. And with a drunk, sold-out crowd on Saturday night, you can bet our boys are going to come out higher than a kite.
And while there’s the chance that we could use that energy to our advantage, it also doesn’t take much to imagine how an over-hyped defense could give up an early touch or two by over-pursuing. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to imagine Connor overthrowing a couple of deep ballst o wide open receivers, or forcing a slant or hitch or two because he’s trying too hard to make something happen.
And so, the only way that I think we lose this game is if we come out too high and get behind 17-7 or some such early in the game and then find ourselves trying to force things the rest of the way.
But if we come out poised and confident, I truly believe that the combination between our crowd and our newfound physicality will be the difference. And so, I’m calling this one 41-27 Cougs. And in so doing, we will end our 2 game losing streak playing teams that have lost to FCS foes in the same year:
Oregon 44 Washington 31. If you want to beat Oregon you have to score at least 42 points. Problem is, its really hard to even get to 30 against Oregon's defense. Washington will buck that trend, but it still won’t be enough.
UCLA 56 CAL 17. Cal will gain some yards through the air but at this point, we all know the drill: CAL is struggling with buy-in and the loss to us last week probably means that team/coach cohesion will come sometime in 2014. They're done for this year.
Stanford 37 Utah 24. Regretably, Utah seems to be getting better and better and better. But, in spite of that, they just aren’t equipped to hang with the Trees for four quarters. Note: This is a potential trap game for the Trees with UCLA coming up next week!
Arizona State 51 Colorado 10. ASU is really mad while Colorado is still pretty bad. Why can't we play the Buffs this year?
Arizona 24 USC 17. I was sure that SC wouldn’t have the firepower to win this one without Marquis Lee. But it was nice to wake up this morning to see Zona with that loss. Lets all hope they get demoralized between now and our trip down to Tuscon!
Last Week: 4-1
Totals to Date: 27-4
Picking the Cougs: 3-3 (Take me over .500 fellas!)
All for now. Go Cougs!