A GRIP ON SPORTS
You know, it was a really good Saturday for the Pac-10. The Pac-12's weekend? Not so much. Read on.
• The math is simple. The Pac-10, the 10 members of the league as it was constituted just a couple years ago, was 9-1 yesterday. The only loss came on the road in Louisiana where No. 3 LSU – always a tough place to play no mater how good the Tigers are – hammered Washington 41-3. But the conference's other nine teams all either pulled out victories (I'm talking to you WSU and California) or posted impressive wins (stand up Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon State and Stanford). Even with the two conference frontrunners, USC and Oregon, winning in workmanlike fashion (not dominating but with relative ease), it was a good day for the 10. However, it's the Pac-12 now and the two newcomers, Utah and Colorado, harshed the conference's buzz a bit. The Utes lost on Friday night to intrastate rival Utah State in Logan, which isn't nearly as bad as Colorado's meltdown at home against Sacramento State, a middle-of-the-Big-Sky team. By the way, it was the second consecutive season the Hornets upset as Pac-12 school after last year's win in Corvallis.
• Eastern Washington has come this close to matching Sac State's two upsets, but last season lost at Washington – the Eagles had a chance to win it on the last possession – and Saturday were edged in Pullman 24-20 – ditto. The two second-place trophies aren't sitting too well with coach Beau Baldwin, though if anything, EWU came out of Saturday's game positioned in better shape to challenge for the Big Sky title than last season. The Washington lost last year was just the first in a three-game season-opening losing streak. Saturday's loss is followed by a bye before the Eagles begin Big Sky play at 0-2 Weber State, which probably will be 0-3 (the Wildcats host 2-0 McNeese State next Saturday).
• As for the Cougars, there was a lot of angst in the comments on this blog (and elsewhere) yesterday, though I'm at a lost to understand it. Yes, Eastern is an FCS school allowed just 63 scholarships (though, unlike FBS schools, the lower division can split rides, so there are probably just as many players on scholarships at Eastern as Washington State). But the best FCS schools, which EWU is one, are as good, if not better, than the lower end of even BCS schools (witness the game in Colorado yesterday). I really believe Eastern is better than UNLV (WSU's opponent on Friday) and Colorado (two Saturdays away). If the Cougars struggle the next two weeks (or lose), then maybe it is time to show some angst. But as a caller to our postgame show said last night, savor the flavor. He was urging all Cougar fans to just enjoy the win and worry about tomorrow tomorrow.
• One of the worries for tomorrow is the health of Jeff Tuel's right knee. The senior quarterback limped off the field and was replaced by Connor Halliday to finish yesterday's game. His status will not be determined officially this week, because, under Mike Leach, WSU does not release injury information anymore, a policy you can be sure I don't believe is right. But whatever. Of all the positions WSU has, the Cougars probably don't have a backup as close to the starter as this one. If Tuel plays, that's good for WSU. If he has to sit, that doesn't put a crimp in the offense because Halliday is that talented. Simple as that. I defer to Leach on the choice of starters, because he has more information than anyone, knows his team and – this is the important part – would probably sell his right pinkie to win. His decisions on who plays is based on one thing: who gives him the best chance to win. If he believes Tuel is the guy, it's because he's trying to win. If he changes his mind, it's because he's trying to win. At this level, that is paramount, the overriding concern. Nothing else matters.
• Washington State: No doubt about it. Christian Caple is good at sharing videos. Christian flooded the blog last night with interview videos, from Mike Leach to Jeff Tuel to Andrew Furney. The sheer volume of the pixels was impressive. He also had Leach's comments transcribed, a short post on Tuel's injury and another post-game post. Add in today's morning post and SportsLink has you covered with just about everything you could need concerning the Cougars. ... Then there is the coverage in today's S-R. We start with the game story, follow up with the notebook, his keys, add in John Blanchette's column on the team and the new stadium, mix in scoring, stats, a photo gallery and we have a full report. ... Christian links the best of the Pac-12 news, but I can add a couple more, including the wire story from the game, Bud Wither's blog post on the 1972 team's reunion and a couple of pieces on the weekend, one from Jon Wilner and the other from Ted Miller. ... One other thing. We were saying EWU is better than UNLV? Well, the Rebels were upset last night at home by Northern Arizona, a team that lost the week before by 1.3 million to Arizona State.
• EWU: Jim Allen has a look at the game from Eastern's perspective. The upshot: close doesn't count in college football. ... Around the Big Sky, Montana couldn't pull out a win in the big intersectional matchup in North Carolina, Montana State did get a victory on the road and UC Davis and Weber State were hammered by FBS foes. If you want more on Sac State's upset, check Christian's morning post. If you want more on North Dakota's win over Portland State, it's here.
• Idaho: It wasn't a good week for the Vandals, who are staring an 0-5 start in the face after losing on the road at Bowling Green. Next up for UI is third-ranked LSU, coming off the shellacking of UW. Pretty mixed results for the WAC, with some bad losses and Friday's big upset in Logan, Utah.
• Gonzaga: We have a Gonzaga-related football story to pass along. Yes, we do. Don't look so amazed.
• Whitworth: Another road game, another road win for the Pirates, who are quickly putting last season's disappoint behind them.
• Preps: Coeur d'Alene hosted one of the Washington's better teams, Mercer Island, yesterday and posted a 39-21 win. Still, coach Shawn Amos was not happy. Jess Brown has the story. And, no, Mercer Island is not saying it won this morning. ... North Central's Kai Wilmot obliterated the Tracy Walters Invitational cross country meet course record Saturday. Mike Vlahovich has the coverage.
• Seahawks: It's not too many hours now until the NFL's first Sunday begins. The Hawks will start this season at the same place – Phoenix – they ended last year's, though to say they are in the same spot would be grossly inaccurate. This is a different Seattle team and that starts with the quarterback. It's all part of Pete Carroll's grand plan, one that needs to bear some fruit this season.
• Mariners: The current homestand started with hope. It doesn't have much anymore as the M's fell to 3-5 in the stretch after losing 6-1 to the Oakland A's yesterday. ... More on the changes upcoming to the starting rotation. ... It's Sunday, so there is Larry Stone's column, his notebook, awards and power rankings. He also has a look at their main role the next couple weeks.
• Sounders: Eddie Johnson has been a scoring machine this season. He set a Sounders' MLS single-season scoring record yesterday in the 2-1 win over Chivas USA. ... One of the Sounders' owners has Sigi Schmid's back - and his fine.
• That's our Sunday report. I'm not sure about where you are, but here in Spokane it's been raining a bit this morning. Just a few more heavy showers and I have an excuse not to do yard work and can watch the RedZone channel all day. Just another thing to add to my Sunday morning prayer list. Until later ...