This blog post is coming to you from the upper reaches of Beasley Coliseum, where we get ready to watch the Washington State men’s basketball team play its only exhibition game of the preseason. The opponent is Lewis-Clark State. But we’ll get to basketball later, after we have a chance to see the Cougars in action. What we have for you now is the unedited version of our first look at UCLA, this week’s football opponent. Read on.
• Before we get to the first look, I’ll pass on the news about Jeff Tuel’s MRI yesterday. It didn’t show any other damage, so he’s being listed as questionable for Saturday. Before Tuel can return to the field, even with a brace, he’ll have to be able to perform a few tasks with the leg, tasks that aren’t easy if there is still a problem. We’ll see when he returns to practice.
• Now, here’s the first look …
UCLA AT WASHINGTON STATE
Time: 2 p.m. (PST) Saturday. TV: FCS (live); FSN (delayed to 7 p.m.)
The records: WSU (1-8, 0-6 in Pac-10); UCLA (4-5, 1-5)
Last week: UCLA defeated Washington, 24-23
WSU lost to Arizona, 48-7
Last time: UCLA defeated WSU, 28-3, in Pasadena last year.
The line: UCLA by 18.5
What it means for WSU: If the Cougars are going to snap their losing streak, which has reached six games, this would seem to be their best chance. The Bruins were tied with WSU in the Pac-10 cellar going into last week, then held off UW for their first conference victory. A lot will depend on freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel’s health, as he’s been the Cougars most effective passer this season. If he can’t go, sophomore Marshall Lobbestael will have to try to move WSU down the field against a decent UCLA defense. If the Cougars can’t find a way to win on Dad’s Weekend, they might be destined for a one-win season.
What it means for UCLA: Believe it or not, the Bruins still have a shot at a bowl game. A win over WSU would move them within one win of qualifying for one the Pac-10 conference’s six bowl berths, as long as seven other teams don’t get to seven wins. But UCLA can’t afford a stumble, with Arizona State and USC still remaining. The Bruins also get a chance to prove they can play in cold weather, something they haven’t done well in the past, having lost five of their last six games in Pullman.
Key matchup: UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince or Kevin Craft vs. WSU’s secondary.
It looks like Prince will be healthy enough to play Saturday after being knocked out of the Washington game by a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet blow. The redshirt freshman has been the Bruins’ best option at quarterback, having thrown for 1,264 yards in seven games with five touchdowns and interceptions. Craft, last year’s starter, came in against UW and led the Bruins to a touchdown and a game-winning field goal in what may have been his best performance of the year. Either will face a WSU secondary depleted by injuries. The Cougars have had five safeties and two cornerbacks miss extended time with injuries, including four that ended seasons. WSU hopes strong safety Chima Nwachukwu will be back after missing last week’s Arizona game with a sprained ankle.
• That’s it for now. We’ll be back in the morning with some thoughts – we only ever have “some” – and links. Until then …