The 10 Commandments




Hello Followers.

Every year when the regular season ends for College basketball, my good friend Sean Hawkins issues one of my favorite refrains:  “If we win the rest of our games, we will win the National Championship.”

And, as we embark on this 2014 campaign, the same can be said about Cougar Football.  If win 13 games this year, we’ll be playing in the Rose Bowl for a shot at the National Title game.  Win 12 and we probably have a good chance of making the playoff.   Win 11 games and there’s a strong likelihood of being selected for the new pool of at-large New Year’s Day type bowls (e.g., the Fiesta, Peach, Cotton).

Of course, just like it has been difficult to imagine the Cougs winning the Pac-12 basketball tournament (i.e., winning a game), it is also difficult to find a reasonable path for this team to break into those New Year’s Day type festivities.

So, what should be the goal for the 2014 Cougars?

If you ask Coach Leach or Connor Halliday, you get the “win one game a week” spiel.  If you ask others in the media or blog-o-sphere, you hear about making it back to the post-season–even if that means winning fewer conference games than a year ago.

And me?  Well, while I have lofty expectations for the season, my goals for this team fall somewhere between the process-oriented goals of Mike Leach and the outcomes orientation of most fans.

So, without further ado, I give you the 10 goals (we’ll call them Commandments) we should all use to evaluate the merits of 2014 Cougar Football.

1)      Win the Opener

So, at this point, everyone knows that Rutgers gave up the same amount of passing yards as Connor threw last year.  What you probably didn’t know is that Rutgers Quarterback, Gary Nova—who’s not very good—is the nephew of former 1980’s rocker Aldo Nova—who’s also not very good.

The 10 Commandments
Life is just a fantasy, can you live the fantasy life?

While I’ll save my prediction about the opener for Thursday, it’s important to remember that the last time a Cougar team played a team like this, we lost 48-45 in the New Mexico Bowl.  So, while it might be tempting to expect a blow-out in front of the 19,000 faithful at C-Link on Thursday, the old adage applies here:


The 10 Commandments

Just win.

2)      Win Our Non-Conference Games

Once the Rutgers game is out of the way, the next step is to go 3-0 in Non-Conference.  Toward this end, while Portland State gave CAL a scare last year, they’ll be lucky to stay within 35 of the Cougs this year.

However, the Nevada Wolfpack are a completely different story.  A few years ago, some guy named Colin Kaepernick lit up a decent CAL team in Reno to the tune of 52-31.   This year, Nevada returns a four year starting Quarterback in Cody Fajardo.  In case you didn’t know Fajardo was the Quarterback of the Year in the State of California in 2010.  He’s a dual threat quarterback who’s on nearly every single post-season watch-list and was named earlier in the summer as a dark horse Heisman contender.

The 10 Commandments

And the Wolfpack?  Well, they’re predicted to land anywhere between 1st and 3rd in the Mountain West’s WEST Division.  So, even though they finished 4-8 last year, expect this one to be an absolute nightmare.  To wit:  Just win, baby.

The 10 Commandments

Just win.

3)      Host College GameDay

One of the primary rules of goal setting is to never set a goal when the outcome is out of your control.  Well, screw that!  After a decade of futility, it’s high time for Kirk Herbstreit to take his handsome mug to the Coug, right?

The 10 Commandments

Anyhow, if we take care of goals #1 and #2, there’s a good chance that will happen.  Of course, in order for GameDay to come to Pullman, the Oregon Ducks will have to take care of business in Week 2 at home against Michigan State.  And, as I noted a few weeks back, I think Sparty is going to pound the Ducks into submission in that one.  I really do.

The 10 Commandments

So, while a GameDay trip would be awesome, here’s to thinking that it will not be in cards for Week 4.

4)      Win The First Conference Road Game

If we win our non-conference games, then getting to bowl eligibility requires a measly 3 conference wins.  But, if we have any ambition about matching or exceeding last year’s 4-5 conference mark, then we have to take care of average to below average conference foes.  And truly, this is a must-win type game for both programs.

The 10 Commandments

The bad news for us is that Travis Wilson and Dres Anderson represent the kind of 1-2 punch that has lit us up over the past couple of years.   The good news is that Murphy and York are gone to graduation and their secondary still isn’t very good.  The other bit of good news:  Utah visits Michigan the week before their game with us.   So, they will not have the opportunity to sit on us the week prior.  Meanwhile, our game against Oregon the week prior should have us well-prepared to face Utah’s spread and speed.

We really have to win this game, folks.  We have to!

The 10 Commandments

5)     Become Bowl Eligible

So, if we beat Utah and win our non-conference games, then we should be one game shy of bowl eligibility by the time we play Stanford.  And while beating the Trees may still be too tall an order for this bunch, beating Arizona two weeks later at home is not.  In short, while every conference game is formidable, this team should have the goal of being bowl eligible before the clock strikes midnight on October 25th.

6)      Get Ranked in the AP Poll

The last time the Cougars appeared in the AP bowl was November of 2006.  At that time, the Cougs had consecutive wins over #17 Oregon and UCLA and were 6-3 heading into a final stretch of games against teams that had losing records (Arizona, Arizona State, and Washington).  Of course, from that point on, we lost out, and the rest is history……

The 10 Commandments

But this year, if we win our non-conference games, play Oregon close, and beat Utah, we probably will be ranked heading into Stanford.  Moreover, if we achieve goals 1-5, you can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll crack the top 25 heading into the USC game on November 1st.   Don’t know about you all, but I think a 6-2 record probably puts us around #21 Nationally.  And if SC stays healthy, this will be a marquee national match-up just when its starting to get cold in Pullman.

7)      Win a Marquee Game

Last year, our win over SC was a turning point for this program.  And while SC was ranked at the time, beating them with Kiffin at the helm didn’t quite qualify as a marquee win for the program—at least not nationally.   To do that, we’re going to have to knock off a team that is highly ranked and/or revered when there is no “ya, but” attached to the game.  So, depending on how the chips fall this year, beating Stanford, Oregon, USC, and potentially Arizona State, would qualify as marquee wins.

The 10 Commandments
Yep, I’m Better Than You Are.

If we get one of those, you can bet that the National conversation would include stories about the resurrection of Mike Leach and the Cougs.  And that would be really cool, especially as recruiting starts to heat up.

8) Win in the North

Last year, our 4-5 conference record included a 3-1 mark against the Pac-12 South and a 1-4 mark against the North.  If we have any design on becoming relevant in the conference, we’re going to have to muster a winning record in the North.  And that means, beating the teams on your schedule that are not named Stanford or Oregon.

Hip-Hip, Hooray!  Hip-Hip Hooray!

So, if we want to improve on last year’s 4-5 conference mark, then the easiest way to do that (says me), is to go 2-2 against the South (i.e., beat AZ and Utah) and 3-2 against the North (i.e., beat CAL, UW, and Oregon State).  Will that be easy?  Of course not!

But it’s doable.  And if its doable, then you should do it, right?

The 10 Commandments

9)      Win the Bowl Game

If we accomplish the goals above, we’re going to find ourselves with something around an 8-4 record. And with that, we’ll head to EL PASO to take on the likes of Duke, North Carolina, or Virginia Tech.  Our goal for that game:  TAKE A FRICKING KNEE!!!!!

The 10 Commandments
This is how you do it, baby…

Do that, and the re-birth of Washington State football will be complete.  And with that, we’ll probably achieve the season’s final goal:

10)   Finish the Season Ranked

Like the Huskies showed last year, if you go 5-4 in conference and win 9 games overall, you find yourself ranked in the 20-25 range in the season’s final poll.

And if that happens, the Cougs will have (a) Won the games they should win—meaning that they became consistent; (b) Enjoyed a winning record in conference—meaning that they exceeded the mediocrity threshold, improved from last year’s conference mark, and became a winning program; and (c) Established themselves as a potential contender for upper division finishes in the years to come (i.e., the type of reputation Washington enjoys right now.)

And so, for me, the dream for this season is 9-4.

Will we get there?   Well, we’re sure going to find out.

The good news is that Goal #1 is there for the taking on Thursday night.   Let’s go get that one!

I’ll be back Thursday with a prediction for the opener.

All for now.  Go Cougs.

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