COUGARS • UPDATE: 2:25 P.M.
Clouds are starting to gather around Martin Stadium. Literally, not figuratively. Hope it doesn't rain on those folks tailgating over by Beasley. Don't want to ruin their experience. For our thoughts on whether the game will ruin it or enhance it, read on.
• I've been hearing a lot of "… as long as we don't get blown out" statements from people around here this week. Talk about lowered expectations. But my feeling is those expectations will be met. This Washington State team should play with more heart than last year's model. Then again, how could it not? Will it be enough to pull and upset in the Pac-10 and season opener? Probably not if by an upset you use to usual definition. But if you believe playing tough and keeping the game close would be an upset, then yes. Here's how. UPDATE Kevin Norrell is not suited up and will not be playing. The same for Marcus Richmond; expect to see Logwone Mitz at fullback some. James Montgomery is running well, though he has a wrap on his right leg.
• Limit Toby Gerhart's carries. The Cougars will stack the box, play Chima Nwachukwu at the corner trying to seal a side of the field and force Andrew Luck to beat them. If they can get Stanford out of its game plan – pound you with Gerhart – that's a win for WSU. By the way, to do that, the two JC defensive tackles, Bernard Wolfgramm and Josh Luapo, have to be stout. It isn't LA Harbor across the line, it's a Pac-10 school.
• Throw the ball. The Stanford secondary is almost completely rebuilt. Ever see a BCS school start two guys in the secondary who were offensive players last year? Well Stanford is with Richard Sherman (receiver) and Delano Howell (running back) at corner and strong safety, respectively. The Cougars' Kevin Lopina – or Marshall Lobbestael – need to be protected well enough to be able to find open receivers.
• Don't turn the ball over. Last year the Cougars turned it over about three times a game. They forced one a game. That's a recipe of disaster any time but in a year when you're trying to make strides, it will be a killer.
• That's it for now. I know nothing up there is earth-shattering, but the simple truths are usually the best ones. One matchup I would recommend you watch: Sherman and Jared Karstetter, if they end up on the same side of the field. Two big guys banging each other around. We'll be back after the game. Until then ...