Football Friday on a Thursday: It's All On The Line

Football Friday on a Thursday: It's All On The Line

WSU Football Blog

Football Friday on a Thursday: It's All On The Line

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We’re going to take pictures and put them on the line.

Hello Followers.  Hope you are having a fantastic week.

As for me, well, I couldn’t be more excited.  I mean, with a win on Saturday, our Cougars will take over first place in the Pac-12 North and will be bowl eligible with four games left.  What’s more, with a win at home on national television against a top 10 team, Washington State will be ranked Sunday in the top 20 and would be in prime position for a top tier bowl game.

I mean, who could have possibly imagined that would be possible a few weeks back?

Anyhow, the title of this week’s post is “It’s all on the line.”  And the reason for that headline is simple:  If our offensive line is able to stand up to that uber-physical Stanford Defense, we will stay in this game and win it at the end.   Moreover, if our Defensive Line rises up and trades blows with Stanford, I actually think we will win this one “going away” (like by 8 or more points).

The problem is that we have yet to show that we are able to match up with a team like Stanford.  Mind you, that’s not to say that we can’t match up with them, but for the past two years whenever our offensive line has faced a physical pass rush, they’ve wilted like daisies in the hot summer months..

Moreover, when you look at how our defense has fared against average-to-good offensive teams, the results really haven’t been very good.  I mean, Rutgers put up 34, Cal put up 34, Oregon put up 31, Oregon State 31, and Arizona 42.  And frankly folks, Stanford is light years better offensively than any of those teams, as indicated by their #1 ranked scoring offense in conference games (Stanford is 1st in conference scoring at 45 points per game, WSU is second at 42.5 points per game.  Also keep in mind that every team that WSU has played outside of Oregon has exceeded their PPG average by at least a touchdown when they have played us).

In addition to putting up points on the scoreboard, the Trees still know how to pound folks into submission. They have a bonafide Heisman Trophy Candidate in Christian McCaffrey, they have an All-Conference senior quarterback in Kevin Hogan that doesn’t make ANY mistakes, and they have a sneaky group of talented receivers and TE’s that are VERY effective at beating you over the top.  And then there’s that offensive line…

So, when you combine their offense with their physical defense—and then factor in that the weather is going to be kind of crappy—you then have the recipe for a very dismal Halloween night.

The Keys To Winning

Will Luke Falk Throw for 400 Yards?  No, I think he throws for 378 in what will be a very long and tough night in the wind and rain.

Will WSU Rush for 100 Yards or More?   No, I think we will rush for a very hard 61.

Will WSU Score 35 or More Points?  No

Will WSU be +1 or Better in Turnover Margin? No, I think we’ll be -2, but it could be worse…

Prediction

I told SeanHawk last week that if we score 45 points in every game the rest of the way, we’re going to finish the year 11-2 and in the Rose Bowl. And I still believe that.  So, if we go out on Saturday night and are able to block and establish those seam routes in the middle of the field, then this one is going to be ON.

But this one feels like a horrible match-up for us and I just can’t see how this one ends well.  Ultimately, my goal for us is to come out of this one healthy  enough to take it to the Arizona State Sun Devils next week.  Because I think our game with the Sun Devils will determine whether we will end up in the #2 spot in the North (which is where I think we belong this year) or wind up fighting with CAL for that #3 spot..

Stanford demolishes the Cougs 55-24 in front of a very wet and disappointed Martin Stadium crowd…

Elsewhere:

Oregon 41  Arizona State 31:  I said after we beat Oregon that I thought the Ducks would win 8 games.  Well, win number 5 comes tonight against an ASU team that will be VERY desperate when they come to Pullman next week.

Utah 49  Oregon State 17.   Utah is mad and the Beavs will completely lay down after losing to Colorado last week.

USC 41  CAL 24.   I think CAL is a good football team.  Unfortunately for them, sometimes things fall apart when you get behind the 8 ball while running the gauntlet (which is why our win against Arizona was so freaking HUGE!) And USC is now poised to run the table—they are scary talented!

UCLA 41 Colorado 17.   Both teams should be flying high after emotional wins last week.  But here’s to thinking that UCLA comes out ready to play while Colorado gets caught resting on their laurels after getting that first conference win in eeeons.

Arizona 28  Washington 17. Very interesting game in Seattle.  Washington HAS to win this game to have a reasonable shot at six wins. Arizona needs to win this game to have any shot of finishing in the upper Division in the Pac-12 south.   I could really be missing the boat here, but I’m thinking this is going to be a low scoring affair with Arizona getting a late touch at the end.

Notre Dame 100 Temple 0.  Just because, right?…

That’s all the time I have for today.  Enjoy the game—no matter what happens. This team is on the rise and its SPECIAL to be playing a game of this magnitude the first weekend in November.  I, for one, can’t wait to see how we handle this!

All for now.  Go Cougs.

 

SeanHawk Sez:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings Cougs, and Happy Football Friday to you and yours.  Personally I have been buried with work and home life, so I just haven’t had the time to frequent the ol’ blogosphere of late.  And I know I really haven’t been missed, what with Sutra just KILLING IT by carrying the blog on his back this fall!  But I’m here to weigh in on what could be the biggest game since, well, it’s been a while.  For example, did you know I heard last night our Cougs haven’t beaten a top-10 team in Pullman since the Cougs whipped UW in the 1992 Snow Bowl??  I thought the game vs. USC in 2002 with Carson Palmer and Pete Carroll and all those guys, or even UCLA in 2001 had them beating a top 10 team at home?  So maybe I’m way off here.  But I swear I saw someone tweet that out last night, so IT MUST BE TRUE!

But this week is a biggie, no question.  Win it, and not only are you in the lead for the P-12 North, but oh by the way you’ve also clinched bowl eligibility at 6-2.  We could see it all fall apart and lose out from there and still probably (maybe?) get to a bowl game.  So yeah, it’s big.

But to me, I’m kind of looking ahead a little bit, even though I shouldn’t be doing so.  But hell, I’m just a dummy fan and have zero influence on anything.  I HAVE that luxury, with zero power comes zero responsibility.  So I’ve looked at this whole season in 3-game “chunks”.

Chunk 1:  Three non-conference games to start the year – PSU, @Rutgers and Wyoming.
Chunk 2:  Three games to start of Pac-12 play in @Cal, @Oregon and home vs. the Beavs.
Chunk 3:  Now we’re in the middle of the third “chunk”, with @AZ, home vs. Stanford and home vs. ASU.
Chunk 4:  @UCLA, Colorado and @UW

And with this season of chunks, my thought was, honestly, that I hoped we could go 2-1 over any of these 3 game chunks for 2015.  Do that, and lo and behold you would be 8-and-freakin’-4 at the end of the season!  And so far, so good (yes, so good, even with the PSU disaster to open 2015).  But we are 2-1 to start out, then went 2-1 in the next 3 games.  In chunk 3, we are already 1-0 and it feels like we’re playing with house money?  With the win over AZ last week, that means we can split the next two at home and still be in good shape for the final chunk of @UCLA, home vs. CU and then of course, the Apple Cup.

Anyway, on to this week.  I have to agree with a lot of what Sutra said, at least in terms of Stanford offensively.  They just haven’t been this good in the Kevin Hogan era, but it all seems to be clicking since they laid an egg at Northwestern.  And McCaffrey, I mean forget it.  The kid is fantastic, as he’s put on some “man muscle” since looking a little too light last year to carry this kind of load, and now just seems to cruise by folks every time he touches the ball but can also run it between the tackles with little fear of contact.

But one thing I really noticed just watching them last week was not just all their hogs blocking on those run plays with McCaffrey, but his PATIENCE with the football and knowing when to turn it up and hit the hole with authority was something to behold.  He doesn’t play with his hair on fire, he’s really under control while still being explosive every time he has the football.  And that is a scary thing on this Halloween match-up.

That said, how can we NOT love the WSU offense right now?  Falk is in that same PATIENCE mold of McCaffrey, where everything just seems calm and cool and under control no matter the situation.  We’ve seen teams sit back and rushing 3 while dropping 8 on D, we’ve seen teams blitz from everywhere, and Falk just keeps making great decisions.  Whether it’s to hand it off or dump it in the flat to the backs, to firing it down the seam to whomever is open, or hell, even taking a sack instead of forcing the action, it’s great decision after great decision (although like you, I would love to see him throw that thing into the seats if there is nothing there!).

But it seems to go a step further than that, and that Falk is really following the lead of one Mike Leach.  You know, not too high and not too low, but just play under control and live for the next play?  Nothing seems to shake Falk right now, and you see it playing out on Saturdays –  he has confidence in his line, his backs and his receivers, and no matter who is open he is going to do his job and get that ball to the right place at the right time.

Even better, I think Sutra and I have talked enough times to where we have come to realize something – THIS offense, this 2015 version of the WSU offense – THIS is what it was supposed to look like when we got Mike Leach to come to Pullman!  Drew Bledsoe has talked several times in the past on ESPN 710 in Seattle that the biggest thing he loves about the Leach offense is that it makes you, as a defense, defend the entire field.  And Leach’s offense seems to have an answer for whatever you can throw at it.  And this year, with a very good offensive line, three running backs who are fast, tough and can catch it as well as they run it, and a stable full of WR’s with Falk pulling the strings, it’s just a lot of fun to watch.

HOWEVER, I hate to be Sad Sack…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

…..but I think this is the type of game that Stanford is built to win.  Not that I think Stanford will win this game with their defense, I mean they are not the same outfit that beat the crap out of folks last year.  Their pass rush and secondary are a little suspect, and if you give Luke Falk time to throw, well, we’ve seen what can happen with a situation like that.  But Stanford used to beat Oregon in games like this, simply by wanting to play the game “in a phone booth” as the announcers would put it, where you line up with your biggest and baddest and just slam the hell out of the other guy.  I don’t see that happening with Stanford’s defense, but they will definitely still hit you HARD when you catch the ball or run it inside.  But I think Stanford’s offense is the best version we’ve seen it under David Shaw.  And I just don’t think we will have enough answers defensively.  We will score points and move the ball, but so will Stanford, and probably just a little bit better.  And I’m still SCARED to death over those special teams!  It’s hide your eyes time every time we see a punt or kickoff, and I sure as hell will be looking the other way Saturday night when we tee it up or line up to punt!

After a tough 3 quarters and back and forth, we may even have an early fourth quarter lead (remember last year, as ugly as that game went for our Cougs, it was just a 7-pt game going into the 4th quarter at Stanford).  But Hogan will march Stanford down the field, converting third down and after third down, and Stanford escapes, 38-34.

And the rest:   Arizona State 37, Oregon 27:  ASU gets theirs against an Oregon offense that still seems to be a little bit off?

Utah 44  Oregon State 14.   The LAST thing the Beavs needed?  An angry Utes squad looking to get right, and quick.

Cal 34, USC 27.   Cal rises up as USC starts to fizzle a bit after the initial rush of the new head coach.  Goff shines here late and Cal is back on track.

UCLA 34, Colorado 10.   The Buffs won a Pac-12 game!  Hooray Buffs!  Now welcome back to reality.

Arizona 23,  Washington 20. I know some others are picking UW here, but I’m with Sutra.  I just can’t see UW getting enough offense to overcome a suddenly desperate AZ squad, even if it is in Seattle.  By the way, Chris Petersen lost 12 games in his entire BSU tenure.  His record at UW?  11-10.  Look for that to be an even .500 after Saturday.

All for now.  HAPPY HALLLOWEEN, and of course, GO COUGS!

 

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