A GRIP ON SPORTS
Expectations. It's a pretty long word. And one of the toughest words to deal with in the English language. Read on.
• I'm pretty sure the poll I put up this morning will find a majority of you believing Washington State will rout Idaho tonight. That would be my expectation as well. But what do we really know? The schools haven't played against each other since 2007 and neither have a common opponent this season. Sure, with Auburn undefeated (WSU's only loss), the Cougars' 2-1 record seems to indicate they'll rout the Vandals, who are 0-3. The oddsmakers, who are usually pretty good at this sort of thing, have Washington State as a more than four-touchdown favorite. So what if the Cougars only win by 10 points or so? Is tonight's game a failure for them and a moral victory for Idaho and quarterback Chad Chalich (pictured)? How you feel about that probably goes directly to your expectations. Like the prospector lost in the desert, a Cougar wants to quench his or her thirst and doesn't care if the water takes like Evian or if it is a bit muddy. After all of the years wandering in the football wilderness, the WSU football fan is probably just happy with a victory, any type of victory. But that won't last. Say the Cougars win today, running their record to 3-1. We've been there before, recently. Two seasons ago as a matter of fact. I can still remember the vibe in Boulder as the Cougars scored late on Marshall Lobbestael's 63-yard pass to Marquess Wilson, giving them an improbable 31-27 win and sending them home with a great start to the season – and raised expectations. But less than two months later those same fans had soured completely on Paul Wulff's long rebuilding plan and a change was in the wind. It blew all the way to Key West, where athletic director Bill Moos met secretly with Mike Leach. By December, Wulff was out and Leach was in. Now Leach's second team is on the verge of winning three of its first four games. Heck, the way the schedule is set up, the Cougars could be 5-2 heading into mid-October's game at Eugene. It's not hard to see wins over Oregon State and California, along with a loss to Stanford. Where would the expectations be then? Of course they would be high, bowl-game high. But this is a still developing program. Depth is an issue. No Pac-12 game is easy. An injury here or there and the last five games could be a struggle. Say WSU does get to 5-2 and then losses the last five. Is the season a failure? After all, before the season began if you told a Cougar fan his or her team would finish 5-7, they would have been really happy. But the USC win raised expectations. (And there's that word again.) It made believers out of non-believers, turned that muddy water into wine. So now the expectation is for Merlot every time. It may not happen. Is Washington State improved? Yes. The Cougars can compete against just about everyone on their schedule. That is obviously an improvement. But the line between winning and losing is still as thin as a recently sharpened $2 knife – and just as brittle. Enjoy each win – no matter how it occurs. Stay grounded after each loss – no matter how it occurs. Just enjoy the moment, enjoy the games and, if at the end of the season you are making plans for Las Vegas or new Mexico or somewhere like that, celebrate. It's been a long time coming. And a lot of crushed expectations.
• WSU: Christian Caple has you covered going into tonight's expected rout (I couldn't resist). He has a story on Washington State's use of freshmen this season – or the lack thereof. He also has the keys to victory and his morning links. … We add to the report with ESPN.com's Pac-12 mailbag (an expectation each Saturday) and a list of things you should know today.
• EWU: The Eagles are off today, as is Jim Allen, so we pass along a couple of advances. … Southern Utah is meeting fellow Big Sky member Sacramento State, but it is a non-conference game. … Weber State has given up 70 points each of the past two weeks but hopes for a better result against McNeese State. … Montana hosts Division II Panhandle State. … Montana State will have its hands full at Stephen F. Austin.
• Idaho: Josh Wright has an Idaho perspective to today's showdown in Pullman with this blog post.
• Chiefs: The season is finally here. Spokane opens it tonight in Kennewick against the Americans. Chris has a preview of what the Chiefs should look like this year.
• Preps: OK, it was a busy Friday night, as usual. And it's all covered at nwprepsnow.com. … The showdown at Gonzaga Prep lived up to expectations with the Bullpups scoring a on last-minute fourth-down pass to defeat Ferris 38-35. Greg Lee has the story and Colin Mulvany the photographs. … North Central held off Rogers in a battle of 3A GSL schools, 28-21. Peter Sowards was at Albi for the first game of the doubleheader. He has the story and Dan Pelle the photographs. … Chris Derrick had the Albi nightcap as Mead got past Lewis and Clark, 21-7. … Shadle Park traveled to U-Hi and won 40-17 as Mike Vlahovich watched. … Down in Moscow, Josh covered the high school version of tonight's Palouse showdown as Pullman defeated Moscow, 42-40. … Post Falls got the better of East Valley, 21-15. Jim Meehan has the story. … Steve Christilaw covered Cheney's home opener, a 27-9 win over Lakeland. … All the box scores can be found here.
• Mariners: Really? Another walk-off loss? Haven't we suffered enough? The Mariners proved once again they are good enough to compete most nights but, especially lately, they are not good enough to win, losing 3-2 in 11 innings to the Angels. … Kyle Seager finally got a night off. He could use it.
• Seahawks: There were some expectation Russell Okung would be out for the season after suffering a toe injury against the 49ers, but, happily for him, they turned out to be false. Yesterday Okung was placed on short-term IR, meaning he could be back in eight weeks. As the news leaked out, it seemed to buoy the Hawks spirit at practice. … No one expected Chris Clemons (pictured) to be back this quickly following knee surgery last year, but here he is. He and Brandon Browner will both play Sunday. … Pete Carroll was happy with his team's work week, which shouldn't be unexpected. He's usually a pretty upbeat guy. … You have to admire that Aldon Smith was reportedly headed to the 49ers training facility at 7 in the morning. But not that he was legally drunk, had marijuana in his truck and plowed into a tree. Thank goodness it wasn't worse. But Jim Harbaugh's response was probably the worst possible one.
• Sounders: Tonight's game in Los Angeles against the Galaxy features a full Sounders squad. Yep, Seattle is as healthy as its been in a while. But will it help in a place they haven't had much success? We'll see. … Eddie Johnson has had to battle for everything he has.
• Until later …