The number of stories today in the Oregonian about the possible reinstatement of LeGarrette Blount outnumber the game advances about three-to-one. But then again, the Ducks aren't playing Cal this week either. Read on for more on the game and the Pac-10.
• Washington State: Before we get to the links, other than our advance story and game day notes (scroll down), we want to share a few thoughts. ... I pulled out the two-deep this morning and started looking at all the true freshmen and redshirt freshmen the Cougars will be playing today. On offense, there could be as many as six on the field at any one time – Gino Simone, Tyson Pencer, Alex Reitnouer, Carl Winston, Skylar Stormo and Jeff Tuel. That's more than half the unit. On defense, there will always be at least three – Travis Long, Dan Spitz and Daniel Simmons – and could be a few more – Terrance Hayward, Anthony Laurenzi and Jay Matthews. Again, that's a lot of pressure on young guys. It was so bad, as I was counting, I almost forgot Simone because he's been playing so much. And then it hit me. That's why. If Simone, who caught eight passes last week against USC, seems like a veteran, then he may just start playing like one. Yes, the coaching staff is playing the young guys because Paul Wulff and company believe the young guys give them the best chance to win now. But they are also playing them because they want them to play like veterans later this season and certainly next. And that makes sense. If you use a redshirt season now, they mature faster physically. If you save it for later – Kevin Kooyman is a good example; if he can't come back this season, he just might redshirt and be a part of next year's team – by playing them this season, they mature faster mentally. It's an interesting choice. ... Another thought on all the youngsters playing. Last night in Southern California, WSU commit Connor Halliday of Spokane's Ferris High, threw five touchdown passes to lead the Saxons to a 41-35 overtime victory over Esperanza High of Anaheim. The Orange County area has turned out a lot of good quarterbacks recently (see Matt Barkley and Aaron Corp at USC for example), so the level of secondary play in the area's high schools has had to improve to compete. Halliday and the Saxons showed players and teams from the Inland Northwest can play at a pretty high level as well. Which bodes well for WSU. When Halliday steps on campus next year, Tuel will already be a sophomore. Halliday redshirts and, before they start to compete, Tuel is a junior. Now the Cougars might have two premier quarterbacks available, separated by a year of eligibility. That allows the coaches to build continuity down the road. It's what they are striving for, so that success isn't a win-one-year-and-lose-for-three type of thing. The goal is consistency. With 14 players already committed, even if only half are pretty good, that's not a bad group. ... OK, enough of my rambling. Back to links. ... Freelancer Howie Stalwick has this advance in the Kitsap Sun and other papers. ... And a pretty good look at the offensive line woes at CougCenter.
• Around the Pac-10: Sorry, really couldn't find anything that screamed Pac-10 only. Washington: As any WSU fans who traveled with the Cougars way back when know, South Bend just reeks of football tradition. There has been a couple recent years the team reeked as well. ... The Huskies know they have to tackle better if they want to win. Oregon State: The Beavers have started slowly before. This year seems different. ... Oregon: There were a bunch of LeGarrette Blount stories today that I'm not going to link. I did find this one interesting though. ... The loss of Walter Thurmond will really be felt deeply tonight for the first time. ... Will the Autzen crowd be as fired up tonight? ... More on Tuel's start, from the Oregon perspective. ... Cal: The fourth quarter is crucial for the Bears today. ... Stanford: The Cardinal have lucked into a good quarterback (sorry). ... USC: This big showdown features two damaged teams. ...UCLA: But this is the biggest showdown in the Bay Area today. ... Arizona State: The Sun Devils will be playing with a renewed sense of urgency today. ... Arizona: This offensive tackle didn't quit, even when his knees told him to.
• That's it for this morning. We're getting to the stadium early today to appear on a Eugene radio show, then we'll post again with our keys to the game and some last-minute notes you might want to be aware of. Until then …