A GRIP ON SPORTS
Ever get caught in a large crowd, look around and realize you just might be going the wrong way? Me neither. Until today. Read on.
• Knowing Washington State is favored in today's New Mexico Bowl against Colorado State gave me a bit of backbone when I picked the Cougars to win yesterday. But as I read more and more predictions for the first bowl of the season, I started to get worried. You see, everyone I can find is picking the Cougars. And that scares me. Maybe it's because it's been so long since I can remember a consensus among prognosticators for a WSU game against an FBS opponent. Heck, a few folks even picked California when the Cougars played down there this year. But not today. Everyone seems to be aboard the Washington State bandwagon. And everyone can't be wrong, can they?
• It seemed inevitable last year Eastern Washington would meet North Dakota State in the FCS title game. Until the semifinals. The Eagles, on their red turf and sporting the higher seed, fell behind a whole bunch early, rallied but ultimately lost to Sam Houston State. Will that scenario repeat itself today? North Dakota State has already punched its ticket to the title game, routing New Hampshire 52-14 last night in Fargo. Now the Eagles get their chance. Towson is a solid football team with an exceptional running back but Eastern is favored, and rightfully so. The Eagles have a great quarterback, have been running the ball better, a defense that can bend at times but only breaks occasionally and, maybe most importantly, the memory of last year's debacle for motivation. Losing a game like that hurts. So much so quarterback Vernon Adams (pictured) clipped the photo of the scoreboard out of the Review and taped it in his locker. He's been looking at it for almost a year. Why? Because he doesn't want the same result. He get his chance to do something about the past today.
• The feeling seems to be Gonzaga hasn't played the usual array of tough, highly ranked non-conference opponents this season and that feeling seems to be right. But just because a team isn't ranked doesn't mean it isn't a challenge. (Did I put enough negatives in that last sentence that it became a positive?) Such is the case this afternoon. The Zags are in Wichita not to play last year's nemesis Wichita State but to play longtime non-conference rival Kansas State. The Wildcats may not be the grab-you, hold-you, bang-you squad they were under former coach Frank Martin but they are still a physical bunch that will test GU's resolve. If you don't want to watch a football game, then the Gonzaga basketball game is a viable alternative.
• Which brings us to our last note. The Cougars kick off at 11 a.m. The Eagles kick off at 11 a.m. The Zags tipoff at 12:30. All are on ESPN's family of stations. All overlap. For the life of me I can't remember an occurrence like this is the Inland Northwest. Heck, the Gonzaga and Washington State women are playing today as well and their game tips at 11:30, though it's on the Pac-12 Networks. Usually it's hard to find a local contest on television. Today there are so many it will overpower most DVRs.
• WSU: The football season ends today, no matter the outcome. The Cougars will have a winning record for the first time since 2003 or their ninth losing season in 10 years. It all depends on the result of today's bowl. … John Blanchette is in New Mexico and has some thoughts on the bowl culture and the Cougars. … Jacob Thorpe is there with him and has an advance of the game, a quick look and his keys to a Cougar victory along with a series of posts on the blog. There is one on the 2003 Rose Bowl and another with today's links. … Tyler Tjomsland is also in the Land of Enchantment and has some enchanting photographs to share. … Bud Withers is also in chilly New Mexico and has an advance of the game in the Times. … ESPN.com's Pac-12 bloggers pick the Cougars to win. They also have a mailbag. … Though Albuquerque is almost twice Pullman's altitude, the Cougars don't think it will affect them. However, the Rams hope they don't feel the effect of Mike Leach's passing attack. … This game is important for the Mountain West. … Dipping into the past, a former Cougar was in attendance as his brothers led their high school team to a California state title last night. … Utah coach Kyle Whittingham may have hit the panic button yesterday, changing offensive coordinators for the sixth consecutive season. Even the folks around Salt Lake City believe the move – demoting Dennis Erickson and hiring Dave Christensen – has the smell of fear. … UW is already in the middle of an NCAA investigation. … Oregon has a matchup with BYU today. And, in football, had Washington's best announce he is attending the school. … Finally, I find it intriguing former UCLA coach Ben Howland enjoys fly fishing. A lot of that in this area.
• Gonzaga: Jim Meehan is in beautiful Wichita (OK, that's an incorrect-adjective foul on me) with the Zags and has this advance and a blog post to get you ready for the game. … Thomas Clouse has an advance of the matchup in Pullman between the GU and WSU women. There is no love lost between these teams after some words were exchanged last year following the Cougars win.
• EWU: As we said above, last year's FCS semifinal wasn't all that kind to Eastern. But Towson offers a different series of challenges today. Jim Allen documents them all in this advance and a short preview of the game. He also a blog post this morning with links.
• Preps: Greg Lee was in the Valley last night to cover a boys intra-district matchup between Central Valley and U-Hi. It wasn't close. … We also put together the roundup of GSL girls games. … Undefeated St. George's handed host Northwest Christian its first loss of the season. … We can also pass along girls and boys roundups from around the area.
• Seahawks: The NFC West was the laughingstock of the NFL a couple years ago (though the champion Hawks did upset New Orleans in the first round of the playoffs). Now it is the league's best. … When Arizona comes to town Sunday, the Cardinals will be without a player or two but so will the Hawks. The injury bug has revisited Seattle's offensive line. … The Hawk defense prides itself in dealing with adversity. … Pete Carroll had little to say yesterday.
• Like a lot of you, my DVR will be working full blast today but my eyes will be on the Cougar game. After all, I have some roots there and, more importantly, I have a commenting gig. After the game you can join Dennis Patchin and I as we dissect the outcome on the Cougar radio network. The best way – if you don't live on the East Side of the mountains – to listen is through the free TuneIn radio app for your smart phone, tablet or computer. Until later …