MORNING CUP OF JOE • UPDATED: 4:30 P.M.
College football's New Year's Day – this year on Jan. 2 – was much more fun than the real New Year's Day, especially from about 2 p.m. on. The Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl were worth every second of the seven hours spent in front of the big screen, though it never fails to amaze me when coaches put the entire game on the foot of a kicker, especially a freshman kicker. Read on.
• UPDATE: I meant to do this earlier and didn't get to it, mainly because I was on the computer/phone with Time-Warner over their screwed up billing department. But enough of their incompetence. I wanted to talk about mine. I neglected to mention to you Cougar fans Christian Caple's starting date with the S-R. That happened to be today, but the first day at a new company is always full of meetings, classes and other minutiae that has nothing to do with covering your beat or blogging. That's why Christian hasn't been on here yet. He's trying to get on the S-R's computer system. Then he'll be blogging away, probably with more acuity than I ever had. ... Also, if you are interested in Spokane area prep action, Greg Lee will be covering the Gonzaga Prep/U-Hi boy's basketball game tonight and will tweet from the game. Greg's twitter handle is SRpreps.
• Locally: Before we get to the football, the most interesting Inland Northwest new this morning comes from basketball. The NCAA released its first RPI rankings of the season and Gonzaga's tough nonconference schedule earned it the sixth spot, the highest of any school not in the Big East, ACC or Big 12. Washington was 82nd, Washington State was 112, Eastern Washington 129 and Idaho was 242. ... Speaking of Idaho, correspondent Josh Wright has his WAC preview in today's S-R. The Vandals open conference play Thursday night in Moscow. ... Washington State, 1-1 in Pac-12 play, travels to Utah and Colorado this weekend; Gonzaga, ranked 25th in the nation, host Pepperdine on Thursday and Santa Clara on Saturday; and Eastern hosts Weber State and Northern Arizona over the weekend. ... Finally, the Seattle Times will host Washington State football coach Mike Leach in a live chat at noon today. You can join it here. I will be spending time today learning how to do the same thing, along with more exciting new-fangled on-line tools.
• Around the Northwest and beyond: It has been 95 years, but the Oregon Ducks finally found a way to build on that big 1917 upset of Penn in the Rose Bowl, using the momentum from that game for a 45-38 victory over Wisconsin on Tuesday. The Ducks' uniforms have come along way since that earlier Rose Bowl win, that's for sure, as has their offense - and defense. But the big question today seems to be what does this win mean for Oregon down the road? The consensus is it is not the end of a 95-year quest but the beginning of the Ducks' ascendency into college football's elite. On the local watch, Oregon's Carson York, from Coeur d'Alene, had to be carted off the field with a patellar tendon injury. York is scheduled for surgery tomorrow. There was also a little deja vu for Cougar fans at the end. ... Stanford had a chance to at the very least put an exclamation point on the Andrew Luck era, but instead of allowing college football's best player to lead them on a game-winning touchdown drive to close out his career (and Oklahoma State), first-year coach David Shaw elected to put on the brakes once the Cardinal got within the 25-yard line. Bad decision. Instead of letting Luck, who missed on four passes all night, at least get closer, the Cardinal ran the ball and asked freshman kicker Jordan Williamson to win the game with a 35-year field goal. He couldn't and Stanford lost, 41-38, in overtime. ... In football news a little closer to home, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian moved quickly to fill the holes on his defensive staff, so quickly in fact one wonders if he hadn't already made contact at least with new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. He and new linebackers coach Peter Sirmon have ties to the Northwest, albeit with rival Oregon. ... The Huskies also have another opening, created when junior Chris Polk decided to enter the NFL draft. There is some depth at the running back position for UW, including Gonzaga Prep's Bishop Sankey, who will be a sophomore.
• That's all for now. As for the name on the top of this column, it's not etched in stone. Though the ones with "grip" in them are a little tough to lean toward as we've spent our whole lives – many, many years – hearing lots of variations of that theme, many of them not all that complimentary. By the end of the day, I'm pretty sure we'll have a title in place. Until later ...