A GRIP ON SPORTS
It's almost as if the college football season has finally arrived in the Inland Northwest. The main course, if you will. There have been appetizers – Eastern playing at Idaho and at Washington State – but today the Cougars, Vandals and Whitworth Pirates are all playing at home. A full-meal deal. And, if you're going to compare today's college football schedule to a dining choice, it would have to be barbecue. With all the smoke in the air, it does bring me back to the days I burn, er, grill, on the back deck. Read on.
• One oddity about the local college football scene thus far: The school that has played the most often in the area, Eastern, has yet to play a home game. That continues today when the Eagles open the Big Sky season at Weber State. But Idaho is in the Kibbie Dome, toting a 0-3 record into the matchup with Wyoming, also 0-3. And Washington State, the juggernaut of the area with a 2-1 record, hosts another 0-3 school, Colorado, up the road. That's nine losses in nine chances in the space of nine miles if you are keeping score at home. So maybe it isn't barbecue on the menu today. Maybe it's something a little less savory. Like haggis – to quote Groundskeeper Willie “Get your haggis right here. Chopped heart and lungs boiled in a wee sheep's stomach. Tastes as good as it sounds.”
• Speaking of the Colorado/Washington State matchup, I've put off picking the game as long as I possibly could. Why? Because the Cougars are such overwhelming favorites, I had to digest that line for a while. I'm of two minds here. I was in Boulder last season when WSU pulled out a 31-27 victory in the final minutes as Marshall Lobbestael led them on two scoring drives late in the game. Colorado was the better team that day until Marquess Wilson inexplicably got behind the Buff secondary and hauled in a 63-yard game winner in the final 70 seconds (pictured). But I also saw the film afterward in which WSU receivers were running free all day and they and Lobbestael just failed to connect. This Colorado team is not only missing most of its best players off that squad thanks to graduation, it also is beat up, physically and mentally. So I have to believe Connor Halliday is going to find even more open receivers than Lobbestael did, and connect with them often. I'm guessing six-touchdowns often. So the question is can WSU's defense limit a Colorado offense that is one of the worst, statistically, in the NCAA? I'm saying yes. In a last-second change of mind, I'm picking WSU to win big, 42-14. So if you are smart, you'll fly to Vegas and put your money on Colorado, a 20-point underdog this morning.
• Washington State: Christian Caple has a full plate for you today, including his football picking contest (that seems like way too much work to me, but he's young and energetic). He also has a morning blog post, an advance in today's S-R, keys to the game and a story on the football operations building, which will be presented to the regents soon. It will get built, it will be big and it will change Martin Stadium – and Bohler – once more. If I were in the WSU athletic department I would already be angling to get the old football coaching offices when they are vacated – do you hear me Milton Neal? … Before we get back to the on-field stuff, read this piece from Jon Wilner on DirectTV and the Pac-12 negotiations. … We never miss passing along Ted Miller's Friday mailbag.
• Gonzaga: ESPN had quite a bit of information on the Bulldogs yesterday, with this blog post on their three big things and five questions with star point guard Kevin Pangos. But the most interesting piece on ESPN.com yesterday was from Andy Katz, who uncovered the fact the NCAA is investigating St. Mary's recruiting practices, especially the Gaels' dealings Down Under.
• EWU: Jim Allen is en route to Ogden as I write this, but that didn't stop him from putting together this advance in today's paper plus this blog post with Big Sky links this morning. … We were also able to find this advance of the Portland State battle with Southern Utah, so between the two posts we have the Big Sky covered.
• Idaho: Down in Moscow, Josh Wright put together an advance of the Wyoming game, which we can supplement with this story from the Boomerang in Laramie. … Utah State and San Jose State also face tough MWC opponents this weekend.
• Whitworth: Yep, the undefeated Pirates are actually at home, hosting the Chapman Panthers (boo, hiss – and if you need to know, as a proud UC Irvine alum, we never, ever root for Chapman) at the Pine Bowl. Jim Meehan has a preview of today's game.
• Chiefs: Tonight's the night for the Chiefs as they open the season in Tri-Cities. Jess Brown has the story. … Portland and Seattle kicked off the season last night, with the T-Birds earning the easy win.
• Preps: A lot of high school football last night, with Greg Lee camped at Albi for the doubleheader. In the first game, Rogers stayed close but ultimately fell to Ferris, 35-24 (pictured at left). And the nightcap was also close, with Mead roaring back in the second half to defeat district rival Mt. Spokane, 32-21. … Out at Gonzaga Prep, the Bullpups set up a showdown of undefeated teams next week with Mead by rolling past Shadle Park 57-19. Jess has the story. … In the Valley, Mike Vlahovich watched Lewis and Clark win a defensive battle, as the Tigers defeated host U-Hi 14-9. … Farther east, Jim Meehan was at Lake City's 45-24 win over Post Falls. … We also have the roundup of other prep football action in the area, the peak performers and a roundup of volleyball and soccer action.
• Seahawks: Still a couple days until the big Monday night matchup, but we have stories on the Hawks' running game, the injury situation, Russell Wilson and the Packer defense, and dealing with Aaron Rodgers.
• Mariners: There will be no postseason again this season for the M's, but they have a chance to spoil some other teams' hopes, including the Rangers. A crowd of 17,893 was at Fan Appreciation Night (no wonder the “Fan” is singular) as the M's upended the undermanned Rangers, 6-3, finally delivering a hit with a runner in scoring position. … The baseball writers handed out team awards last night with Felix Hernandez winning the best pitcher one once again.
• Sounders: In case you are working off an old schedule, Seattle hosts San Jose today, not on Sunday as originally scheduled. The match was moved up to give the CenturyLink folks more time to prepare the field for Monday night. … It's a big one for Seattle.
• We are headed down to Pullman for today's game, though it would probably be easier to catch it on FX. But we're not about easy. No siree. We're about service to you, our loyal readers, and to you, our loyal post-game listener. We'll be up on Twitter today and may be chipping in, helping Christian with his in-game chat. Check out his blog post for more information. Until later …