Originally posted on WSU Football Blog  |  Last updated 10/8/13
Hello Followers.  Hope your week is off to a great start! As many of you know, last Friday, I picked the Cougs to lose to the not-so-mighty Golden Bears of CAL.  And while that pick may look a bit foolish now, my reason for that pick extended beyond my irrational anxiety about that game. So, continue reading for a few thoughts about what the CAL win means for us moving forward, plus my weekly Pac-12 rankings. ++++ One of the things that we knew going into the CAL game is that there was a lot that we didn’t know about CAL.  For one, CAL had played a BRUTAL schedule to date, with games against two teams that are in the top 4 in the country, plus another (Northwestern) that gave Ohio State everything they wanted and more on Saturday night (and this just in:  Northwestern is dynamic!). The other thing we knew about CAL: Outside of the monsoon game in Oregon, Goff and company had moved the ball nearly at will against both Ohio State and Northwestern.  In fact, Mr. Goff was leading the nation in passing yards three weeks into the season—averaging nearly 500 yards a game.  This picture reminds us all to never feel sorry for CAL On top of that, CAL’s passing attack was buttressed by something that we haven't been able to deal with in recent memory—“scat backs” that get to the edge in a hurry.  So, in addition to being concerned about our ability to cover CAL’s burners, I was also pretty concerned about our ability to contain the litany of explosive running plays that I was sure were coming our way. And then, of course, the game happened. In the first half, we were pretty content to rush three and drop eight.  The result:  Goff had nearly 350 yards of passing in the first half alone.  Truly, the only thing that kept us alive were those fumbles. Then in the second half we started to bring the heat.  And although Goff showed his excellent “escapability” throughout the second half, he also lost his rhythm along the way.  And so, at the midpoint of the third, CAL wisely decided to stop throwing the ball downfield and began opting for quicker passes as well as pitches to the outside to their running backs.  And while that approach worked for a bit, we were able to adjust to that wrinkle as well as the game went on. ++++ So, why is all of the above relevant?  Well, the first half was a good measure of what’s going to happen to us on Saturday if we allow Sean Mannion the time to sit back and pick us a part.  And, the second half was a good measure of how Oregon State will fare IF we are able to put pressure on the quarterback.  What’s more, while CAL has a stable of really fast running backs, Oregon State does not.  While CAL has a young quarterback who is mobile and moves well out of the pocket, Sean Mannion does not.  And so, if Storm Woods is still unable to play at running back for the Beavs this week, the key to beating the Beavs will come down to one simple questions:  Can we get to the quarterback? Because those who follow the Beavs know that Mannion tends to become a train wreck when pressured--even though he has yet to feel the heat so far this year. Moreover, while CAL has played three top 25 teams, Oregon State has played none. To be sure, they beat a pretty good Utah team.  At the same time, they lost to Eastern Washington and were down 9 a few weeks ago to San Diego State team with two minutes left.   And yes, that  was the same San Diego State team that not only got blitzed by Ohio State, it is also the same team that lost by 21 (and gave up 40 points) to that big powerhouse known as Eastern Illinois. So, while Oregon State will be rested and coached up for our contest on Saturday, make no mistake about it: Without a healthy Storm Woods, this is a team that we should beat at home.   In fact, I think we should beat them handily--IF Woods is unable to go. Pac-12 Rankings at the Halfway Point of the Season. 1.        Oregon—Until such time that the Quack score less than 49 points in the first half, they have to be #1, don’t they.  Let’s hope that they continue their streak of dominance this week in Seattle against the Pups. 2.       Stanford—Obviously, the Trees were fortunate to escape last Saturday night.  But, escape they did and in so doing had an important dress rehearsal for what they’ll see in a month from Oregon.  In the end, Washington did them a huge favor in providing a practice test for that pivotal game. 3.       Washington—While I still would pick UCLA to win their contest against Washington in LA, the Huskies were awfully impressive on Saturday night.  To make matters worse, they look like a team that we won’t be able to handle very well.  In fact, if the Apple Cup was tomorrow, I’d be tempted to pick the Pups by three touchdowns—something I haven’t done since 1992.  That’s how good I think the Huskies are. Lets hope they fall apart starting this weekend. 4.       UCLA—A win is a win is a win is a win.  But Bruin nation can’t feel that great about winning by a touch on the road when the opponent throws not one, not two, not three, but SIX INT’s.  Don’t know about you all, but my view of a top 10 team is that if the other team turns it over 6 times, the final score is something like 55-16, not the 34-27 score we saw Thursday night. 5.       Arizona State—So far, ASU has played 4 teams that can run the football (Wisconsin, Stanford, SC, and Notre Dame).   They’ve lost to two of them, and arguably, should have lost another if not for a controversial call.   So, even though ASU has talent, one has to wonder if they have the make-up to make a real push to 8 or 9 wins.  Colorado provides a nice respite, but Washington looks like they have the running game to steamroll them.  And if they do, their season will rest on the outcome of their game in Pullman on Halloween. 6.       Washington State—All of a sudden, the stars seem like they’re aligning for our Cougs.  Hard to believe, but at the halfway point, our Cougs are 2-1 in conference—even though we’ve played all of our conference games on the road.  Now, in the second half of the season, 3 of the final six are in Pullman, with one of the roadies being against a very beatable Arizona team.  In other words, not only are our Cougies well poised to finish in the sixth spot, there’s now a viable path for us to finish in the top 5 and in El Paso on December 31st.  And who would have thought that possible at the beginning of the season? 7.       Utah—Yes, I know that they’ve lost two games at home.  And yes, I’m sure it’s a bit hypocritical to put them here when they lost at home to Oregon State.  But the Utes have looked impressive even in their two defeats and they have that road win at BYU that is one of the bigger non-conference W’s for the conference.  8.       Oregon State—When your quarterback has Heisman numbers and your leading receiver looks like a bonafide All-American, you usually deserve to be in the conference’s upper division.  Problem is, the Beavs have looked spotty even against shaky opponents.  What’s more, their secondary looks slow—which doesn’t bode well for the upcoming slate of games, including this weekend against the Cougs 9.       Arizona—The Cats are buttressed by a schedule that is as easy as Sunday morning.  But, they won’t look better than a fifth place team in the South if they can’t get by the 10th ranked team in the conference post week VI. 10.   USC—Hard to know how the men of Troy are going to fare after Lane’s firing.  My view:  The defense will start to play hard again.  The primary problem with SC is that Lee is questionable for this upcoming game.  And if they can’t throw, the pace of AZ’s offense threatens to wear a thin Trojan team down.  Anyhow, this Thursday night tilt should be viewed as a game that “Can’t be passed up”—since neither team can throw the ball a lick.  Should be an ugly one. 11.   Colorado—They still aren’t very good even though their coach is.  CAL alums have to be kicking themselves for choosing Dykes and not Mike Mac. 12.   CAL—Not only did they lose a game they absolutely had to win last week against us, they also lost a host of additional players to injury.  As a result, expect CAL to get torched the rest of the way—probably by an average of 5 touchdowns.  Colorado now stands as the only obstacle to their first 1 win season since 2001.  Dykes and Buh represent two of the worst hires in the country, even though I think that Goff is going to be AWESOME in a year or two. Okay, that’s all the time I have for today.  Enjoy the rest of the week.  And above all, enjoy the build-up to a weekend that could see our Cougs move to 5-2.  Incredible!
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