COUGARS • UPDATED: 4:10 P.M.
Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott is in Pullman today and is speaking right now on the Cougar Road Show with Bud Nameck. John Blanchette is over in Hollingbery Fieldhouse and will talk with Scott when the radio show is done, so when he gets up to the press box we'll fill you in. We have some other thoughts about today, so read on.
• Looking at the Pac-10 picks around the West Coast, having WSU cover seems to be the trend. I know when I did my picks on Tuesday, which was early for me, I felt the same way. After watching practice Monday and Tuesday, I thought WSU had made just enough changes defensively to give Arizona a run for its points today. But then I had to skip Wednesday's practice. When I got back Thursday and found out freshman middle linebacker C.J. Mizell wasn't at Wednesday's practice either, some alarm bells went off. After all, Mizell's size and speed in the middle had made a difference against Oregon, with 12 tackles and a forced fumble on a hustle play. The official word was Mizell missed Wednesday with an academic appointment. But when Mizell came out late on Thursday and did not participate, I started to wonder if there was more to it. There is. Mizell will miss today's game as he deals with personal problems, according to the school. Best as I can figure out the young man is homesick and struggling with all that being thousands of miles from home entails. I know that WSU is good at offering counseling to kids, athletes or not, who have the same problem, so there's that. There is an expectation Mizell will return to practice Monday and be ready to go against Stanford next week. UPDATE: The official reason Mizell is not suited is because of Wednesday's missed practice. That's a violation of team rules. And he will be back Monday. ... So where does that leave the WSU defense? Actually, as far as opponents go, it might not be too bad. The Cougars will play a lot of nickel and dime today in an attempt to slow down the UA passing attack. That means Anthony Carpenter, Casey Locker, Damante Horton and Aire Jordan will play more and the linebackers less. If Alex Hoffman-Ellis is healthy – he went through walk-through yesterday – he, Sekope Kaufusi and Myron Beck should be able to handle the linebacking chores. Kaufusi will play the middle along with Hallston Higgins, as Mike Ledgerwood is also still out. ... I do believe, however, not having the Mizell of last week hinders WSU's defense a bit. If the young man can put it all together, he has a chance to be something special. ... What else should we watch for today? I do expect the Wildcats will run and run often when WSU puts the dime package on the field. They've done it in the past and it's worked, so why change? ... As for the Washington State offense, I expect some different looks today as well as coordinator Todd Sturdy deals with the speed UA can bring off the edges. If the Cougars try to set Jeff Tuel up 7 yards back and throw, the sophomore is going to be a standing duck. The idea is to move him around, making Arizona react to where he is, not where they expect him to be. ... That being said, it will still be up to the offensive line to protect Tuel and that group is missing Micah Hannam, who is not starting for the first time since I began covering the Cougars back in Bill Doba's final year. His 43-game streak is the longest for a WSU offensive lineman at least in the Pac-10 era. His replacement today is John Fullington, the 6-foot-5, 268-pound freshman. Fullington's future is bright, but WSU needs him to realize it in a hurry, like today. ... Add it all up and, if I had a do-over, I would pick Arizona to cover the 24.5-point spread, something I didn't do on my picks. We'll all see how it plays out in about an hour or so. ... By the way, I've said this before but I do believe freshman defensive tackle Toni Pole may play today. He's healthy and the d-line is quite thin this week with Casey Hamlett and Adam Coerper out.
• That's all for now. We'll be back throughout the game on twitter at vinceg55. With the later start and less time until our print deadline, I have to keep up some things not Internet related. Until later ...