Football Friday on a Thursday, Week Nine of 2013


Football Friday on a Thursday, Week Nine of 2013

Relax, Dude. Its a Bye Week.

Welcome to the first of two bye weeks in 2013. A week guaranteed to produce no Conner Halliday interceptions, but not guaranteed to keep us all from arguing about it anyway. Last week the Cougs got predictably trounced by Oregon, but not everything went quite as most folks expected. For one, as we went to halftime, the Cougs had largely weathered Oregon’s first half storm and found themselves very much in the game. After forcing Heisman front runner Marcus Mariota into his first two turnovers of the season, the Cougs cashed in with touchdowns on a couple of the prettiest Conner Halladay passes we have ever witnessed. The 2nd half featured the kind of avalanche of scoring we’ve come to expect from the Ducks and combined with our own sputtering in the 3rd quarter, the game was quickly a laugher. However, Mike Leach decided to let the first team stay in the game and work out there issues right then and there on the field. The result, a record setting day with nearly 90 pass attempts by Halladay and an Oregon defensive coordinator who completely lost his marbles. Somehow, on a day when Oregon wore pink helmets and scored over 60 points, it was our Cougs that a lot of people were talking about. That, my friends, is the “Leach Effect”. While the results of hiring Mike Leach and implementing his Air Raid have been mixed, at best, you can start to see signs that this thing is working. Sometimes the signs just aren’t in the places you’re looking.

Lets consider for a moment, Nick Alliotti’s reaction after the game on Saturday. There are probably lots of reasons for his outburst and some of them probably come in a bottle marked Jack Daniels. Also, as the coordinator of a nationally ranked defense laboring in the shadow of a much more famous offense, absorbing those kinds of points and yards on the old stat sheet had to sting. But even all of that doesn’t quite explain the unhinged burst of crazy roid rage we saw in that press conference. Something else was at work there. I honestly think its not completely unrelated to a couple similarly bizarre outbursts from Oregon sports columnists the last couple weeks. First, Ken Goe fired off this thinly veiled hissy fit after the Oregon State game. Then some guy named Dwight Jaynes offered up this moronic bilge. And in case he hadn’t done enough to prove that “sports journalism” is the ultimate oxymoron, he added this to the “canon”.

If you are done laughing, I’d like to get to my point.  I think its pretty clear Oregon is freaked the f-ck out that finally someone in Washington is responding to their recent turn of the tables in the Northwest’s football power hierarchy. The Beavs have been steady Eddy for a decade now, with 8 or 9 wins and a bowl game the new norm in Corvallis. Meanwhile, Oregon is a national powerhouse and current flag bearer for the Pac-12 conference, supplanting traditional power USC in that role. For the last decade this has been a state of affairs that has gone completely unchallenged by Oregon’s traditionally dominant neighbors to the north. Recently UW has climbed back into the top of the national recruiting rankings on an annual basis, created arguably the most spectacular stadium in the country and started winning games again. Wazzu seems to have almost completed its long crawl out of the Pac-12 basement with shiny new facilities upgrades and an iconic new coach all being brought along by the very architect of Oregon’s rise to prominence, Bill Moos. The histrionics on display from Oregon sports writers and now coaches (not to mention their cartoonishly arrogant fans) is nothing more than their insecurity bubbling to the surface. They can hear the footsteps creeping up behind them and they’re starting to get a little freaked out.

Anyway, just because its a bye week doesn’t mean we’re off the hook for making picks. Lets get to it…


Bye week, a perfect time for a trip to the Leach Beach.

Longball’s Locks:

Obviously no pick for the Cougs this week, but I will say this… we may not be in as bad a position as it feels like after losing 2 straight to the Oregon schools. As has been pointed out many times around the webs, the combined record of the teams we have lost to is a stone cold 25-3. So, yeah, we are still losing games and still getting blown out with some regularity. But we are also hanging tough with some damn elite competition. The days of losing to Colorado at home, or getting lucky against Eastern WA and UNLV are pretty clearly behind us now. Want more good news? The season is a marathon and we will enter the final stretch in better shape than anybody we’ll be facing. We are remarkably healthy and about to enter a stretch of only 1 game in the next 3 weeks. Its almost like a mini training camp in the middle of our season. Obviously there are things we need to work on and we have been given a golden opportunity to do just that then emerge healthy, well rested and HUNGRY for the final 3 games. I like our chances.

As for this week’s action:

USC 31, Utah 24

Travis Wilson is not 100% and may not even play. Utah has not established itself as a tough road team and even with the loss at Notre Dame, this Trojan team feels re-born.

Oregon 51, UCLA 33

Brutal stretch for the Bruins. Oregon is just a machine at this point. Meanwhile after their close scrape at Utah and loss at Stanford the Bruins just haven’t looked like the road warriors I thought they’d be after the Nebraska game.

Arizona 38, Colorado 17

Zona has some glaring issues, especially in their offensive passing game, but they aren’t glaring enough to help Colorado out in this one.

Stanford 35, OSU 33

The Furd find a way to pressure Mannion and grab an emotional road win on a last second field goal, crushing the Beavs attempt to make an end run at hosting the Pac-12 championship game.

UW 47, Cal 21

Not nearly as close as the score even though the score isn’t all that close.

Enjoy the bye week, folks and GO Cougs!


SeanHawk Sez:

Happy Football Friday on Thursday Cougs.  As always we hope that things are well in your corner of the world as we enjoy a week off around these here parts.  Of course, I roll with the Don James picture today as a bit of a tribute to the UW great and college football icon, but for a few different reasons that you might think.


First of all, Don James and his wife Carol were close friends with some of my family and the relationship goes back a long time.  For them, this has been a tough loss.


I only met Don James once, but it is something I won't forget.  He was a guest at my sister's wedding back in the mid-90's, and for a while that night I wanted to talk to him.  The timing just was never quite right though, as you don't want to come across as some drunken oaf who wants to get in his face and talk college football!  Believe me, there were many people who were doing just that and he was in a crowd for most of the night.  But as the reception went on later into the night, my buddy and I found him standing alone by the dance floor just kind of taking a little break from the festivities, all by himself in a rare moment.  My buddy and I looked at each other and kind of said "now or never", and we went up and started to talk to him.  I introduced myself as the brother of the bride and so that quickly broke the ice, and we then talked college football and the Cougs in particular for the better part of 20 minutes that night.  It was really interesting to get a look at what James thought at an informal setting like that, not an interview or anything close to it but just a few guys hanging around at a wedding reception, beers in hand and all that as he held court with a couple of 20-something Cougs.  


While he wasn't an over-the-top personality, he was definitely more talkative than I expected.  He had a dry sense of humor and a fairly quick wit about him, but also had some praise for WSU and Mike Price as the Coug head coach at the time.  I don't think he just said what he said because he knew we were Cougs either, he just wasn't that kind of guy.  Now he wasn't overflowing with praise about WSU, mind you, and knew very well that my friend and I were Cougs through and through.  But he did say good things about both Price and Jim Walden, and WSU in general was a rivalry that he enjoyed very much in his coaching career.  We talked Apple Cups and former greats that he coached, as well as great teams and players he coached against in his time with great things to say about Drew Bledsoe, Timm Rosenbach and Mark Rypien among others.


Anyway, coaches come and coaches go.  They aren't all quite the same, but some of them aren't always what they are cracked up to be behind the scenes if you know what I mean?  And I know he didn't leave UW under the best of circumstances, in fact he quit because of the bowl ban instead of riding it out on probation.  But he was a class act through and through, he treated my sister very well in their social encounters over the years, and there was always very little phony BS that went with being "Don James".  Above all else, being a Coug fan like myself even I can respect that.  RIP, Dawgfather.


Moving on, to things you probably care a whole heck of a lot more about than anything else?  The Cougs.  Well, I think Longball pegged things pretty well as he weighed in above, in that this bye week does come at a great time and it's even more so a strange situation to play basically 1 game over a 3-week span?  It gives you hope that they lick their wounds, which are bound to be more so that we are aware of in the general public (especially with Connor Halliday's growing list of ailments).  But we find the Cougs in a weird spot right now, as the postseason hopes are still very real but at the same time feel like they are hanging by a thread??  At 4-4 with only 2 home games left, the margin for error is just so slim.


I do believe though that as we sit here at 4-4, can you look back at the season as a whole and not really find a whole lot of surprises?  I mean when you look at the 4 wins and 4 losses, where are the surprises?  I know the USC win was a shocker just in the realm of WSU never really beating USC other than, like, once a decade or so.  But we know SC was a mess at the time we played them, and they finally got out of the Lane Kiffin nightmare (although SC did beat a pretty good Utah State team in LA under Kiffin even after WSU beat them, so, who knows).  But the rest of the Coug wins have been pretty predictable (Southern Utah, Idaho and Cal) while the losses have been much the same (Auburn, Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon).  I guess the OSU game is the one possible surprise in the loss column, as Vegas had it essentially as a pick-em at the time they kicked off?  But it's weird, because if you play the betting odds anyway things have pretty much gone the way that the gamblers have forseen for our Cougs in 2013.  


That's where I get a little concerned though, in looking ahead at the last 4 games.  ASU is already a hefty favorite in Pullman next Thursday, and the Cougs are likely to be a road dog at Arizona as well.  I would venture to guess that WSU might be favored at home vs. Utah, depending how the Utes look after playing – in order – @USC, ASU, and @Oregon before they come to Pullman!  With Travis Wilson already beat up after their first game outside of the state of Utah last week, well, what's he going to look like if he can even make it through the next 3 games??  


So, if we're playing the speculation game and rolling with the odds above emotion, that could leave the Cougs at 5 wins heading into the Apple Cup.  All bets are off of course in that rivalry game, but….I'm sure Vegas will peg us as at least a 10-pt dog depending on how UW handles the rest of their season, and maybe closer to 14 points?  But even at 4-4 and some tough games ahead, there seems to be a real shot at the Apple Cup being for a bowl bid.   


The picks for this week:


Arizona 44, CU 20 – Az took care of business last week with their strength – the ground game – and that type of attack always travels well.  But they could play this one on the moon and AZ should win comfortably, even with an anemic passing game "led" by BJ Denker.


USC 31, Utah 21 – SC is beat up, sure, but if Travis Wilson is limited the Utes could be in huge trouble.  And while he makes a lot of big plays, Wilson also has made his share of mistakes this year.  Did you know that Wilson's thrown 12 INT's in 2013, on 202 passing attempts, including 9 INT's in just his last 2.5 games?  To put that in perspective, that's almost 6% of his attempts that are INT's.  Connor Halliday leads the world in INT's this year with 17, but, his INT % is 3.9 on over 400 attempts.  So there.


Oregon 53, UCLA 27 – Ducks keep rolling as De'Anthony Thomas returns with a vengeance.  And did you know that Brett Hundley is the most sacked QB in the Pac-12 since the start of the 2012 season??  As special as he is talent-wise, makes you wonder how in the heck they will protect him in that Autzen environment.


OSU 38, Stanford 23 – Becoming a bigger Beaver Believer as the weeks go by.  I know that statistically the defense isn't great, but they did allow just 17 points on the road at Cal last week after dominating the 4th quarter the week before in Pullman.  In other words I think the Beavs are 1) GREAT on offense, but more importantly, 2) might be figuring things out on their leaky pass defense as well.  Anyway, should be a crazy night in Corvallis as the Beavs continue to be the biggest surprise of the Pac-12 in 2013.


UW 54, Cal 19 – Should be an emotional night in Seattle as UW pays tribute to their former great head coach.  And oh yeah, Cal is AWFUL.  What a perfect opponent for UW to bounce back huge, Keith Price's injured thumb or not.  And definitely watch the Seattle media start to lap up all things UW as they get "right" blowing out Cal and then Colorado the game after that (seriously, just wait for the mounds of praise that will be heaped on them with declarations of "THEIR BACK!" after they destroy the two worst teams in the conference right now!).  


All for now.  Looking forward to a weekend off, but also looking forward to next Thursday!  GO COUGS!

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