Game day in the desert. When the sun comes up, I'm sure it will be another perfect golfing day. Football? I'm not so sure. Isn't that game supposed to be played on the frozen tundra or something? Ah well, at least no one will need a coat. Read on for links and notes.
• Washington State: We'll have some more thoughts on today's game prior to kickoff but I wanted to cover some of the defensive injuries and how that might affect WSU today. Starting on the back line, where Chima Nwachukwu joins the long list of Cougar defensive backs – Daniel Simmons, LeAndre Daniels, Tyree Toomer, Eric Block – who are unable to play this week. Nwachukwu, who didn't make the trip, may not be the most physically talented player in the Pac-10, but he's a solid, tough, high-character guy who is a leader in the defensive huddle. His presence will be missed no matter how well Jay Matthews (the 11th freshman to start a game this season) plays. Up front, Jesse Feagin will miss another game, as his broken hand didn't respond this week. After being named a captain a couple of weeks ago, you know what his teammates think of him. But the key aspect of his absence is the lack of depth on the defensive line. Basically, WSU has Anthony Laurenzi and Dan Spitz to rotate with the four starters. As the sun heats the Arizona Stadium field and the legs start to tire of chasing ball carries, this could have a big effect. ... I've heard a lot of questions concerning next year's schedule, which has yet to be finalized. There are a few things I'm sure of: a) The non-conference games are at Oklahoma State (to open the season), Montana State and at SMU. Those three are currently scheduled back-to-back-to-back to start the year. b) There is a chance a conference game could be played at Qwest. The school wants a Qwest Field game badly – Seattle Week and all that. But would Montana State draw? Not likely. So there have been talks with Oregon about that game in Qwest and there has been some thoughts about the Cal game – the week before Thanksgiving – in Seattle. But nothing is definite yet, though if the WSU administration (as opposed to the athletic administration) has its way, there will be a Qwest game. c) The Apple Cup will be in Pullman. The other Pac-10 home games are USC, Cal, Oregon and Arizona. A pretty tough group coming to the Palouse. Add in the two non-conference road games and this might be WSU's toughest schedule in years and not all that conducive to a winning record. ... On to the links. ... We had our advance story, centered around quarterback Jeff Tuel and his Tucson roots. ... We also had our game-day items on this post (just scroll down). ... Freelancer Howie Stalwick has this preview in the News Tribune and other papers. ... There's a lot of good stuff these days at CougCenter.
• Around the Pac-10: ESPN.com's Ted Miller opens his mailbag. Soon he may have to dunk the e-mails in water before opening them. ... Washington: If the Huskies want to realize their bowl dreams, they must win today. ... But they haven't done that against UCLA at the Rose Bowl in a while. ... Oregon State: A pretty darn good running back matchup in Berkeley, if everyone is healthy. ... Oregon: Too much thinking about the past in Eugene? ... California: More on the two running backs. ... Stanford: A big loss for the Stanford defense – in experience and play-making ability. ... USC: The Trojans will be missing a key element on defense. ...UCLA: Is Washington the perfect prescription for what ails the Bruins? ... Arizona State: Not all that much separates the Devils and USC. ... Arizona: For some reason, the Wildcats fear WSU. ... A couple injuries to running backs? No big deal. Just run out another four-star freshman.
• That's all for this morning. It's time for doughnuts. Like I said, I'll check back in before the game with our final notes. Until then …