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A GRIP ON SPORTS

My name is Vince Grippi and I am not a college football junkie. Sure, I enjoy the sport. And I will watch it as often as possible. But do I need to watch it? Nah. At 10 last evening I had no trouble turning off the TV during halftime of USC's win over Hawaii and closing my eyes. Oh, sure, later I checked the score on the iPhone a couple times, but it's not as if I needed to. It was because I couldn't sleep. Nor did I need to watch South Carolina storm past North Carolina or Utah kick its little brother, Utah State. I did those things because I am required to by my jobs. If I didn't watch, how could I intelligently write or talk about the games? Heck, I watched parts of the Seahawks preseason game against the Raiders and the Mariners win over Houston. No one would do that if they didn't have to because of work, right? I will say this. In between the lightning bolts – on and above the fields – I learned some things about this just-out-of-the-shell college football season. Three things in fact. Read on.


••••••••••

• The first thing I learned comes courtesy of the SEC, the be-all and end-all of the college football world these days. Pish-posh. Yes, the conference is the best in college football, at least at the top. But Vanderbilt and Mississippi didn't look any better than middle of the road Pac-12 teams. Heck, their defenses looked to be pretty darn mediocre, especially with the game on the line. And neither quarterback seemed all that athletic or accurate. It was like watching Utah or Arizona or last year's California team play. And South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney (pictured)? Wow, he's talented. But I was amazed how many plays he took off. For a guy who is supposed to be the best player in college football, he didn't go hard on about a third of the plays I watched. Yes, North Carolina didn't run at him often and, on passing plays, seemed to roll its protection toward him, but if he weren't part of the play, often he wouldn't go full out. Not what I would call leadership by example.

• The Trojans aren't the Trojans of old. Yes, they have some amazing physical talents. But the depth isn't there and I think it showed most glaringly on the offensive line. It isn't as physically dominate as it was just a half-decade ago. Part of that, of course, could be the quarterbacks aren't as experienced – or as talented – as USC has had in the past, and their protection calls weren't up to snuff, but the Hawaii front seven dominated the line of scrimmage more often than not in the first half. After watching three SEC teams play and then Southern California, I'm not sure the Washington State opening two games are as tough as everyone thought. Sure, playing Auburn at home won't be easy, nor will facing USC in the Coliseum. But remember, Auburn was winless in the SEC last year and USC is in transition. It seems possible to project neither team is as tough as it was just two or three years ago (and, in USC's case, I'm sure of it). That should be welcome news to WSU fans.

• Finally, Utah eked out a win last night against in-state rival Utah State, but I didn't see any marked improvement for the Utes on either side of the ball. The offense under new coordinator Dennis Erickson was a bit more polished – the Utes did lose their best wide receiver early – but the defense is still pretty porous. That news should also buoy the spirits of Washington State fans. After all, they host Utah later this season. But don't forget the Utes were down last year and still hammered the Cougars 49-6.

•••

• WSU: Speaking of the Cougars, they are in Alabama today as is Christian Caple (I am presuming he's crossed over from Georgia by now). He has a morning blog post as per usual and also has this story on the SEC. … So complete are Christian's links, all I could find to pass along were these picks.

• EWU: Jim Allen also has a morning post today (you can see where I got today's lead-in) along with a story on diminutive safety Allen Brown (if 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds can be considered diminutive) and a live chat from yesterday. … Jim also has a question-and-answer post with the Oregonian OSU beat writer. I'm sorry to say, due to layoffs in Portland that hit the veterans on the staff hard, it is no longer Paul Buker. … There were a few games for Big Sky schools last night, including a 22-21 upset pulled off by Southern Utah at South Alabama (FYI WSU fans, Southern Utah is the Cougars home opener). Portland State blew out Eastern Oregon and San Jose State did the same to Sacramento State.

• Idaho: No football news, but the Vandal basketball team added Glen Dean to its roster. Dean played a couple years at Eastern Washington, a year at Utah and now has a year left with UI. Josh Wright has a blog post and short story.

• Indians: Spokane kept its postseason hopes alive with a 12-3 rout of Everett. Chris Derrick has a story and a blog post on the win.

• Preps: Football kicks off tonight in Idaho. Greg Lee has an advance of the many games all over the region.

• Mariners: The M's snapped a six-game losing streak with a 3-2 win over Houston thanks, in part, to three extra base hits. There was a double by Franklin Gutierrez and home runs from (Nick) Franklin and Gutierrez. (I must admit I stole that from a tweet last night.) Gutierrez showed – once again – just how good he could be if he could stay healthy. … Tonight is Taijuan Walker's major league debut and he could either be the M's next superstar or another flame out (or something in-between). No one knows for sure, not even the M's management. … One thing seems to be for sure: The M's are going to let Michael Morse go to Baltimore. He was claimed on waivers and Seattle has no desire to keep him, for a variety of reasons.

• Seahawks: Bad news for Terrelle Pryor and the Raiders. Despite playing their starters a lot against the Hawks' backups, Oakland looked out-matched. Pryor's quarterback rating was in the single digits and he was trying to show he deserved the starting spot. The Hawks won 22-6 without using many of their starters after the first series on both sides of the ball. … Cuts are coming (everyone has to get down to 53) so who will Seattle keep? There are a lot of tough decisions to be made. … The flag-raising ceremony last night brought more than a few tears. … The Hawks were pretty pleased with their effort last night and talked about it. A couple players, however, were hurt. … Seneca Wallace decided to retire instead of playing for the 49ers. We will not make a snide remark about San Francisco. No, we won't. 

• Sounders: It's national team time once again and the Sounders will be hit pretty hard, losing a trio to national duty after this weekend. That's what happens when you're talented, as Sigi Schmid likes to remind us.

•••

• That's it today. It's Friday, and it will be my last day on the radio for a while. We are on at 3 p.m. for an hour. You can listen here. Tomorrow, I will team with Dennis Patchin on KXLY 920 to host a call-in show following WSU's postgame show. I'll pass along a link tomorrow. Until later …


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Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpe) Sports reporter Jacob Thorpe covers Washington State University athletics. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jim Meehan (@srjimm) Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Sean Kramer Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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