A GRIP ON SPORTS
College football season is almost upon us, which gives me mixed feelings. Of course, I love the games. Week after week of down-to-the wire action, emotion, great plays, grating missed calls, the fans, the players, pageantry, pathos. College football has everything. But as each week passes, and the season winds down, we get closer and closer to winter. Cold days, even colder nights. Not my favorite. Oh, well, at least that means it's basketball season. Read on.
• In honor of football season beginning, we held a little exercise yesterday on the radio show. Each of us picked how we felt our local teams – WSU, UW, Eastern and Idaho – would do. It's an exercise in futility, of course, as it's nearly impossible to figure out how, say, Eastern will match up with Cal Poly in the middle of November, but it's fun nonetheless. Here is how I picked each team's regular season record, and why.
• Washington: This one is simple. Keith Price (pictured) and the Huskies will finish 7-5. They have won seven games each of the past three years, so who am I to say they will win more or less this season? (And, yes, I know it took a bowl win to get to seven wins in 2010.) But it's funny. Looking at UW's schedule, a 7-5 mark actually seems likely. There are home wins to be had vs. Idaho State, Arizona, California, Colorado and WSU. A road win at Illinois seems doable. Which means all the Huskies have to do to get to seven is either defeat Boise State this Saturday or upset someone on the road. The likely candidate is Arizona State. But we all know UW will win one game it shouldn't (I would put my money at UCLA or Oregon State) and lose a game it should win (I know most readers of this column would hope that is the Apple Cup).
• Idaho: The Vandals don't have the advantage of playing any conference patsies, as they are not in a conference. But they do get New Mexico State, albeit on the road. Looking through the road-heavy schedule, I can't see Idaho doing better than 3-9. The wins? Temple at home, New Mexico State on the road and an upset of either Old Dominion or Texas State at home. There is a possibility, however, of pulling an upset this weekend in Texas and if that happens, UI could win as many as four games – what, you thought I was going to go higher? Nope.
• Eastern: The Eagles have a tough schedule. No doubt about it. Road games against FBS schools Oregon State and Toledo in the first three weeks. At Montana. At Cal Poly the week after hosting Big Sky favorite Montana State. But I have a hunch – ya, a hunch – Eastern is going to be really good this year. The offensive line is just too good for the offense to sputter and the defense, while having to fill huge holes, always seems to fly around and cause problems. With all that in mind, I figure the Eagles will upset one of the FBS foes and lose just one other game, finishing the regular season 10-2. Yes, it seems like a lot of wins. But something in the back of my head keeps telling me this is going to be a special season for the Eagles.
• WSU: This is the hardest one for me. As I peruse the Cougar two-deeps, I think this is the best starting group WSU has had in the past five or six years. But the Cougars success seems to always revolve around health and who knows how that will work out. There are a couple guys WSU just can't lose. Quarterback Connor Halliday, middle linebacker Darryl Monroe (pictured), safety Deone Bucannon. If those guys stay healthy all year, they will anchor the respective sides of the ball. Let's assume, for this exercise anyway, they do and WSU avoids a spate of injuries elsewhere. With those assumptions, wins are possible against Southern Utah, Idaho, California, Oregon State, Arizona and Utah. The Cougars won't win them all but they could pull an upset along the way against a highly favored opponent (this week maybe?), so let's peg it at 5-7 and call it good. My worry is WSU will be 5-4 going into the Arizona game, Cougar fans will be salivating about a bowl game and the last three games will all slip away, like 2006, the last time WSU opened the season at Auburn (that year WSU was 6-3, lost three consecutive times and stayed home). A finish like that would cause most Cougar fans to lose sight of what would be a great season. After all, five wins would match the total of 2008, 2009 and 2010 combined.
• WSU: A lot of college football today (one would think the season is starting) and Christian Caple contributes his fair share. He has his first Pac-12 notebook, built around the quarterbacks, along with a Pac-12 power ranking. He has video and notes from after practice. He summarizes Mike Leach's comments on the Pac-12 call and he lists WSU's depth chart. He has a morning post and will hold a live chat this afternoon. Tomorrow, Christian will save a puppy from a burning building and fly his own Gulfstream to Auburn. … The Cougars have quite a few players from Los Angeles. … Jon Wilner also had a bunch of stuff on the San Jose Mercury News site, including Heisman thoughts, coaches on the hot seat, BCS projections and games to watch. … Bruce Feldman has Pac-12 thoughts on this podcast. … People are wondering if Mike Leach called Jeff Tuel a loser. I don't think so. He just stated a fact. WSU didn't win many games while Tuel was there. Not Tuel's fault. The Cougars just weren't very good. … Saw this yesterday but for some reason forgot to pass it along. WSU's women's basketball team received a commitment.
• Gonzaga: Jim Meehan passed along a couple of story links last night so we thought we better get off our rear and find some too. But we couldn't. Dang it. So we pass along Jim's blog post.
• EWU: Don't expect the Eagles to be intimidated by the Oregon State Beavers, despite a national ranking. Jim Allen tells you why Eastern feels they belong on the field. Jim also has his morning post. … Speaking of the field, there will be a game at Roos Field this Saturday, pitting a couple of NAIA teams. Tom Clouse has an advance of Carroll College's matchup with Menlo.
• Indians: There are a couple different ways the Indians can make the Northwest League playoffs. Chris Derrick explains them in this story.
• Preps: A couple of local girl high school basketball players have committed to college basketball programs. Greg Lee has the story.
• Mariners: Another game on this homestand, another loss. At least this one was in a different manner. How different? How about a 10th-inning balk by Danny Farquhar (pictured) that scored the go-ahead run. Then, of course, there was the usual lack of execution in the bottom of the 10th, leading to the 4-3 defeat to the Rangers. … There is always the future to focus on.
• Seahawks: The Hawks got down their roster to the prescribed roster number yesterday mainly by making some injury moves, though a couple guys were let go. But the big number is next week and that will take cuts. … Russell Wilson, who has been OK this preseason, had a chance to talk with Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, a Portland native. … Seattle fans should plan at getting to the game early this week. … Though there were some notable absences at practice, the Hawks are getting healthier. … Antonio Winfield is enjoying himself in Seattle. And Bruce Irvin likes his new position, though it will have to wait.
• It's Wednesday and the M's are playing a getaway day game. That means a 12:40 start. And we don't know when the radio show will begin. It could start almost on time at 3 if Felix shuts down the Rangers. Or it could be at around 4:30 if the game takes the usual three hours or so. Or we could not be on at all if there is lots of extra innings, as has been the case occasionally. Whatever, you can listen here if you like. Until later …