Football Friday on a Thursday, Week Twelve of 2013


Football Friday on a Thursday, Week Twelve of 2013

This is it, folks. Our bye weeks are behind us, bowl eligibility is still tantalizingly dangling out in front of us, and the outcome of the 2013 season is still as much of a mystery as it was before our first kickoff at Auburn over two and a half months ago. Despite everything we have seen I find myself somehow squarely on the fence about whether or not this is the Cougar team that breaks our interminable bowl drought. Of course, after the last few weeks being on the fence probably qualifies me as a bona fide optimist around these parts. Entering this stretch of three weeks with only one game, I was indeed optimistic. We were healthy and we had a lot of time to rest up and get coached up on everything that had happened in the previous 8 weeks. But then we completely failed to ever get off the mat at home against Arizona State. Not a confidence inspiring performance, by any measure. But with all our key players healthy and all the time we’ve had to rest up and get coached up the last few weeks, can we really have a repeat instance of failure to launch?

Football Friday on a Thursday, Week Twelve of 2013

The fact is, its “show me” time for this Coug team. If we can’t take this late season scheduling gift and the best health we’ve had in this program in the last 7 years and translate that into a competitive performance, then something has gone horribly wrong. On the other hand, if we can manage to show up in Tucson, II am completely prepared to put the last few weeks behind us as the expected growing pains of a team on the rise playing against some of the elite competition in the country. But for the love of all that is holy, you just gotta show me SOMETHING. Anyway, lets get on to our picks…

Longballs Locks:

I cannot imagine that the Cougs lay a stinker again like they did at home two weeks ago. However, this team is suffering a serious downward trajectory in almost every facet of play without a single excuse I can think of to adequately explain it. Sure, the competition got tough, but we opened on the road with what is now a top 10 team, and Lane Kiffin, or no Lane Kiffin, winning at USC takes real grit. I'm going to predict that we only hang in this one for the first half, then its back to the message boards to debate whose fault this all is.

Cats 38, Cougs 21

Washington 33, UCLA 30

Myles Jack should have wrapped up the Heisman last week by playing both ways like a high school all star, but UCLA needed him to for a reason. Can they pull another rabbit out of the hat? UCLA is in a dog fight for the South title so they have all the pressure in this one. Sooner or later I expect the Huskies to look like the team we saw at Stanford earlier this season and unfortunately for UCLA its sooner.

Oregon 48, Utah 24

How will Oregon respond after having their hopes and dreams completely detonated AGAIN? By putting a business like whoopin on the Utes, that's how.

Colorado 31, Cal 28 OT

I think if you look around at the history of conference cellar dwellers getting together, you may see a lot of really fiercely contested games. I may actually watch this one. I got the Buffs at home in an overtime thriller.

USC 35, Stanford 33

You heard it here and don’t forget it! that's right folks, proving the old adage that college football is about as predictable as a Toronto Mayor, the Trojans stun the Card and the nation at home and Ed Orgeron gets a well deserved crunk juice bath.

Oregon State 44, ASU 38

And just to be sure that the Pac-12 South remains the biggest cluster f-ck of insanity in college football, the Beavs avenge their close cousin the Badger at Sun Devil Stadium in a wild night cap. Who could ask for more!

Enjoy the games, folks, and Cougs!


SeanHawk Sez:


Happy Football Friday Cougs.  As the season continues to dwindle, what with THREE games left(??), I couldn't help but feel a little "weird" the last month or so with these Cougs of ours?  I don't know exactly why, but I have a pretty good theory anyway.  But I can't recall feeling so much lethargy/apathy towards the team in, well, I can't recall.  Here are a few reasons why:


1) They haven't played a game in a while.  We've seen what, ONE WSU football game in roughly a month??  I know the old saying of absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that, but this late year drought of actual college football games to watch that you truly care about is kind of weird.  It's kind of like being out sick for a while when you are a kid, and you camp out on the couch instead of going to school and going to practice or playing in games, etc.  You realize that the rest of the world just kind of moves on, with or without you, and it's a little humbling when you realize yeah, you were missed….but things still moved forward without you.  I can't help but feel as Coug fans that we've been the sick, forgotten kid on the couch lately while the world just moves on.


2) When they have played?  They've been pretty bad and/or left a sour taste as we walked away from it.  55-21 on Halloween to ASU, 62-38 to Oregon back on 10/19, the late-game collapse vs. the hated Beavs on 10/12.  So it's not just not having any football to watch, but what we have seen as our most recent memories to take from what we have watched??  A big, fat EH.  And so much of football is that week-to-week reaction to what you just saw, and that has been nothing but losses and bye weeks since 10/5!  Hard to maintain the enthusiasm and energy based on the recent body of work, know what I mean?


Anyway, FINALLY we have a football game where we have an actual dog in the hunt.  But I have a sense of doom here, much like Longball's take above – this one doesn't feel promising.  And I think it's partly because I haven't seen us play a game in so long, and partly because I watched Arizona hang with a pretty good UCLA team in Tucson last weekend where it came down to the last possession of the game before it was decided that has me worried.


I still recall watching Arizona look horrible in the Seattle rain against UW earlier this year, and feeling awfully confident that this backup-turned-starter BJ Denker kid at QB for the Mildcats was a joke when throwing the ball.  I watched him sail easy pass attempts and make bad decisions in obvious passing situations, and thought our Cougs had a fantastic chance to beat this guy.  But then something changed for AZ, and Denker started to improve.  He threw for 363 yards vs. USC in a tough 7-point loss, and they've gone on to win 3 of their last 4, the only loss coming by 5 to UCLA last Saturday night.  He has thrown for at least a 60% completion percentage in each game since that nightmare vs. UW, with 9 TD's to only 2 INT's in his last 5 games.  In other words?  The kid has improved as the season has gone on, and worst of all for our Coug D is that he's taking care of the ball and isn't exactly a turnover machine, know what I mean?


But that's just through the air.  Where I'm mostly worried is what Denker can do on the ground, and that's going to be our undoing.  After watching ASU's Taylor Kelly absolutely pick our Cougs apart with that read option stuff, where the D not only didn't seem to have a clue how to stop it with some gigantic holes all over the field, and looked awfully slow and hesitant to attack.  Now that Denker has been figuring things out in the air as the season has worn on, I can't help but feel like a repeat of the ASU debacle is what's coming next.


But all that said, it's still the AZ running game that has to be the biggest concern.  Denker has run for 645 rushing yards this season, good for 5.3 yards per carry even including QB sacks.  While those #'s are impressive for a QB, if you add in Marcus Mason AND Teondray Caldwell's rushing numbers for this year?  Denker has run for almost double the rushing yards of our top two rushers in 2013 (399 yards combined for Mason and Caldwell). I know, I know, that's part of the Mike Leach Air Raid and we just don't run the ball, etc, etc, etc.  And a 4-yard swing pass to a running back is the same thing as a 4-yard run off tackle.  I understand all that.  But it's still a pretty big contrast and plays in to what has become a big weakness for the WSU D, and that's stopping anyone with speed in a read-option style offense.  Add in maybe the best running back in the conference in Ka'Deem Carey and his 1200+ rushing yards this year on 5.7 yards per carry, and I got a BAD feeling about what's about to happen.  


AZ runs wild on the Cougar D, totaling over 300 yards on the ground as the Cougar D looks unsure and slow for most of the game.  The WSU O hangs in there for a half or so, but things will start to get away from them by the third quarter and the turnovers and mistakes will start to mount.  What will feel like a decent game for a while will turn into another laugher, as Arizona pulls away on the ground for a 56-27 win


The rest of the story:


Washington 27, UCLA 24

This is THE game for UW's 2013 season.  Win it and you are back on track for that 9-3 finish.  Lose it and not only are you 6-4, but the season morphs into a colossal letdown after so much hype and promise early on, and you have to question where they'll be mentally for the last couple of games on the schedule (including that pesky Apple Cup??).  But UW has gotten fat on the worst teams in the conference at home the last two weeks in Cal and CU, and there is no better "feel good" medicine that playing bad football teams at home (read:  Southern Utah and Idaho in Pullman, 2013)!  But while UW came up just short vs. Stanford in what seemed like an eternity ago, I think they finish the job on the road this time and beat the Bruins in a tight one.  Bishop Sankey will be the difference here, while UCLA will struggle to move the ball consistently on the ground and keep the heat off Brett Hundley.   

Oregon 38, Utah 27

While some think Oregon bounces back huge?  I'm not so sure this time.  Marcus Mariota was clearly not himself vs. Stanford, and Utah has shown they can step up and play some tough D in stretches this year.  And we saw that an Oregon offense where Mariota can't run with his usual explosiveness just isn't the same (of course, Oregon once again couldn't block Stanford's monsters up front or basically anyone in that front 7, and the Oregon receivers couldn't get off press coverage on the outside!).  Ducks win, but this won't be the dominant performance that one might expect in a bounceback performance.

Colorado 3, Cal 2 


Stanford 23, USC 20

I really wanted to pick USC here, I really did.  I think Stanford may have some kind of a road hangover after the Oregon W, and USC has been quietly winning games since Lane Kiffin was fired on the tarmac.  SC is now 4-1 in the post-Kiffin era, with only a 4-pt loss on the road to Notre Dame which is really nothing to be ashamed of.  I love SC's ability to match up against Stanford's 17 offensive linemen package, and if you force Kevin Hogan into predictable passing situations??  Still, the Cardinal will win this one late with some big stops defensively but it will be a dogfight.

ASU 45, OSU 21

The Devils dodged the upset last week at Utah, and now have clearly sharpened their focus on winning the Pac-12 south.  Meanwhile Sean Mannion has gone from Heisman dark horse to a guy who looked pretty ordinary against big, fast defenses, with just 2 TD's to 3 INT's in his last two games vs. Stanford and USC in Corvallis, games in which his offense scored just one TD in each game.  ASU gets up big early with the read option, then pins their ears back and attacks Mannion from everywhere as the Devils pour it on late.







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