We're back for our pregame post. It's a tradition here at SportsLink to write a bunch of stuff an hour or so before game time, then remember something we wanted to say while the opening kickoff is in the air. We'll try not to do that today. Read on.
• I've read a lot of comments this week referring to this game as one the Cougars could win. I'm sorry, but I don't get it. Arizona State, on paper, seems to be just the type of team that should cause WSU problems. I have a hard time figuring out how Washington State will score. Sure, the ASU defense has given up some big plays. But the Cougars really don't have anyone who can break a big play, either from the running back or receiver spot. So it seems like that advantage will be tough for WSU to exploit. Otherwise, the ASU front should dominate the makeshift Cougar offensive line. Everyone healthy, WSU is OK. Right now, probably not. ... With the offense handcuffed, the defense needs to be perfect. I'm not sure it can be. ASU will score enough early to put pressure on the Cougars and then we should see how they respond. If it's like last week, WSU fans have a right to be upset. If it's like the SC game, then they don't. ... As an aside, Dennis Erickson and homecoming. Pretty damn funny in that Erickson has said hello to at least a dozen people since I've been here. ... Back to football. If the Cougars want to compete, there are certain things they must do. Let's get to those.
• Keep Jeff Tuel on his feet. ASU hasn't been getting to the quarterback as often as it would like. So expect the pressure to be intense. Up front, the Cougar offensive line is the same as it was last week – Brian Danaher will play, but not at first and not that often – and they struggled to protect last week. They have to do better if WSU wants to move the ball.
• The defense must put ASU in third and long. If the Devils can get their running game going, their offense becomes that much more aggressive. Move the ball on the ground, get the safeties up and, boom, shots downfield. And we all know how well the Cougars have defended the deep passing game at times this season. So it's crucial for the front seven to control the running game.
• Convert chances. They probably will be few and far between today, so Nico Grasu must hit his kicks, the offense must score if given a short field, the defense must give it a short field once or twice – ASU leads the Pac-10 in turnover margin; WSU is tied for last, so such occurrences may not happen – and everyone must execute. Then WSU has a chance, like so many of you have been touting.
• That's it for now. We'll be back at halftime. Until then …