A GRIP ON SPORTS
It's Big-Game Week in Cheney, but I guess when you are ranked sixth in the nation, just about every week is Big-Game Week. Even if the game is on the road. Read on.
• There are only five teams in the Football Championship Subdivision ranked higher than Eastern and the Eagles match up with one this Saturday. Second-ranked Montana State, featuring an experienced all-purpose quarterback (DeNarius McGhee, No. 9 at right), awaits EWU in Bozeman, where it is expected to be sunny and decently warm (the low 60s) for Saturday's showdown. In other words, a perfect fall day for a crucial game for both teams. The winner joins Cal Poly (the Mustangs host Northern Colorado so they should be 6-0, 4-0 in conference when the sun rises Sunday) on the inside track for the conference title – though Northern Arizona (4-1, 2-0), which is at North Dakota this week, doesn't play either MSU or EWU and gets Cal Poly at home, so that might just be an edge. But not only is Saturday's game big in the conference standings, it might mean even more come FCS playoff time. The winner will be in the running for one of the 12 coveted first-round byes, a week of rest and recuperation before the playoff grind hits (not to mention a better opportunity to play home games), as well as one of the top four seeds, meaning you get to play a team that battled through the first round the week before. With four teams ranked in the top 16 of the Sports Network poll, the Big Sky (standings are here) has a chance for at least a trio of teams in the 20-team playoffs, but nothing is guaranteed when the NCAA gets involved. We all know that. So every win, especially road wins, are a big deal when it comes time for the organization to make its selections.
• Washington State: The nice part about Tuesday is the ability for beat writers – in this case Christian Caple – to reach beyond the beat and to write about the Pac-12 overall. Christian does just that today with his conference notebook, though to get that done it meant he had to listen to the Pac-12 coaches conference call, an event with the lowest time-to-worthwhile-quotes ration in all of sports journalism. Christian passes along Mike Leach's conference call quotes along with a blog post from after Tuesday's practice as well as his usual morning post with links. ... With basketball practice officially beginning Friday (the teams have been practicing limited hours all summer and fall), Christian has this story looking at what's been going on with the Cougars since last season ended. ... Christian will host a live chat today so you can ask him questions about football and basketball. ... Bud Withers tries to figure out how Oregon would do against the big, tough, strong SEC while Jon Wilner tries to figure out how Sean Mannion's knee injury (Mannion is pictured above) will affect the Pac-12 North race.
• EWU: With the Bobcats looming on the near-horizon, the interest in the Eagles ramped up a bit this week. Jim Allen caught the flavor of that in this story in today's S-R. He also adds a blog post this morning with a couple links.
• Idaho: The WAC is trying to survive as a non-football conference, adding Utah Valley State and Cal State Bakersfield (left) to the roster for next season. Neither school plays football and they would join Seattle U, Denver and New Mexico State. If Idaho stays – the Vandals are looking at moving every sport except football to the Big Sky – then the WAC has six schools and will keep its automatic NCAA basketball tournament berth. If the Vandals bolt, the conference has to find another school. Let's hope it's from a more scenic area than Bakersfield. Josh Wright has a blog post with the news and there is this story in the S-R this morning. ... If you are interested in all the schools that have been in the WAC over the years, this is pretty fun. ... As for this season, Utah State has a big game this weekend.
• Whitworth: Jim Allen's college soccer notebook leads with a look at the nearly impenetrable defense at Whitworth.
• Preps: Volleyball took center stage Tuesday night with Pullman getting a big GNL win.
• Seahawks: Though quarterback play is still front and center (and will be with a rookie at the helm), the Hawks defense – one of the NFL's best early on – and running game is what really worries New England. The Patriots' offensive tempo is what Seattle is worried about.
• Mariners: The fall league began in Arizona yesterday and pitching prospect James Paxton showed what he has.
• Sounders: Seattle not only has one of the best MLS teams, the Sounders women had an exceptional season as well. But their future is in doubt, as their league is folding and there is some uncertainty about a future pro league.
• NBA: Hey, even David Stern visits Italy. Wait, what's important is his answer to a question about Seattle's future. A question asked in Italy. Cool.
• The weather is still good. The radio show is being preempted by baseball playoffs. My body feels OK. It seems like a good day to play golf, so that's where I'm headed. The proper response is "hit 'em straight" but as that is a near impossibility for me, I will accept "have fun" and "don't break any clubs" as well. Until later ...