A GRIP ON SPORTS
It may be hard to believe but, after eight games, of which they have won only two of them, the Washington State Cougars face a crucial contest today. Read on.
• Yes sir, the 2-6 Cougars' matchup with Utah is crucial. It's crucial in that another loss, especially a bad loss, will separate WSU even more from the have-nots of the Pac-12 conference. And that would make the in-progress rebuilding process all that tougher. See, the past four years at Washington State have been awful. But last season it at least appeared the Cougars were improving. Way too slowly, perhaps, but the trajectory seemed to be on the rise. Mike Leach's hire accentuated that and gave Cougar fans hope. But this season hasn't panned out the way those fans envisioned. Sure, they understand intellectually building a successful program isn't always a straight-line process, but what's transpired this season, well that just doesn't seem fair. After all, the Cougs have competed well against some of the Pac-12's best, including Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State. The potential is there, right? But as encouraging as those losses have been, they are still losses. Isn't it possible to pick up a win once in a while? Isn't it possible to play that well against one of the conference's other bottom-feeders? Heck, Colorado is as bad a football team as there is in a BCS conference. Wait, the Buffs rallied in the final eight minutes and defeated the Cougars. In Pullman. California can't get out of its own way. Wait, the Bears dominated WSU. In Pullman. Now comes Utah, tied with Colorado a-bottom the South division. The Utes just got their first conference win last week, against the aforementioned stumbling Bears. So here is a shot for the Cougars to play well and pick up a win, isn't it? And, with UCLA, Arizona State and Washington left on the schedule, it just might be WSU's last best hope for a conference victory. Will the Cougars get it? Probably not, but for once they should play well against a poor team and have a shot to pull out a win. Let's say it will finish 21-16, Utah.
• Washington State: So how many In-N-Out trips has Christian Caple taken in his 12 hours in Salt Lake City? Anything under three is a waste. But he did have to take some time to write this morning's blog post, along with his advance of the game and the two-minute drill (or roughly how long it takes me to devour a Double-Double).
• Gonzaga: Former Bulldog Mike Redmond was introduced to the media (above) as the Marlins' manager yesterday but the highlight of his day had to have been talking with John Blanchette. John used the interview for this column.
• EWU: Today's game in Cheney against Cal Poly may go a long way in determining how far Eastern advances in the FCS playoffs. The winner will probably earn a much-easier road. Jim Allen has the matchup particulars in his advance and more in his morning post. ... Idaho State coach Mike Kramer suspended the player whose allegations have gotten Kramer in trouble and that hasn't made some folks happy. ... Weber State goes for two-in-a-row today against Montana. ... Southern Utah hopes to build off its upset of EWU.
• Idaho: San Jose State travels to Moscow today to kickoff the Jason Gesser era for the Vandals. Whether that will be a really short one or not may begin being determined today. Josh Wright has more in his advance. ... The game has postseason implications for the Spartans. ... Utah State tries to keep pace with Louisiana Tech.
• Whitworth: Speaking of the postseason, a win today would help the Pirates' quest for an at-large berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs. Jim Meehan has an advance of today's game at Pacific Lutheran.
• Preps: Before we get into the scores from last night, I wanted to point out this story from Greg Lee. It concerns U-Hi having to forfeit all its volleyball victories and being tossed from the state regionals. The Titans used an ineligible player, one they had no idea was ineligible. As you read the story, you'll understand why no one thought she was ineligible. Almost every high school volleyball player plays for a club team, one that competes against other club teams made up of high school students. Those clubs are not part of the WIAA system. Playing for them does not disqualify a player from playing for a high school. The team from the girl's high school is analogous to a club team (its not part of the WIAA), but the WIAA decided the player's inclusion on the U-Hi squad was grounds for a forfeit. Now contrast that decision with the one the authorities in Utah made recently when players were deemed ineligible at the state's top-ranked high school. The administrators ruled that, though the games had to be forfeited, the other players on the team and the school officials had no idea there was a problem, so they shouldn't be punished. They allowed the school to participate in the state playoffs. Now this ticked some folks off, but it was the right decision. And one of the few times I've seen in which state high school authorities made a logical decision instead of just hewing religiously to the letter of the law. ... Now, from the soapbox to the field, where Gonzaga Prep ran all over Chiawana 55-28. Greg was at G-Prep (pictured) and has this story. ... Mead, Coeur d'Alene, Lake City and U-Hi all won Friday night, with only Shadle Park falling. ... Chewelah earned a 1A playoff berth. That leads our football roundup. ... We also can pass along a soccer story.
• Seahawks: The day seems mostly dedicated to the laziest of all journalistic endeavors (hey, it's not my opinion, but one of a certified genius), the injury report. The Hawks are getting healthier and so are the Vikings.
• Sounders: Seattle had multiple chances to post an advantage in its first of two playoff games with Real Salt Lake, but goalkeeper Nick Rimando turned them all away in a 0-0 draw. The tie means the first-round playoff series will be decided Thursday night in Salt Lake City.
• Mariners: The M's have a bunch of money available to spend this offseason. The question is, will they spend it? I guess there are two questions. The other is, will they spend it wisely? You decide if re-signing Hisashi Iwakuma fits the latter category.
• We're ready for a Saturday full of football. We'll watch the Cougars and then be in the KXLY 920 studios to take phone calls and talk about the Utah game. Join us if you can. It starts about an hour after the game ends. Until then ...