A GRIP ON SPORTS
Listening to Colin Cowherd this morning, I was struck once again by the power of the NFL. A Thursday night game in early September on the tube draws a 16-plus overnight rating, according to numbers cited by the ESPN radio host. That's better than NBA final games, World Series games, heck better than most any other sporting event. It's the season opener, sure. And the defending Super Bowl champions are on, which makes it a bit more special. But that doesn't explain how the pregame show gets a rating in the 15s. That's just domination. More dominating than even the Seahawk defense. Read on.
• The game itself was a spectacle, the NFL at its best. The CenturyLink crowd was dynamic, the Green Bay offense efficient early and, as the game wore on, the Hawks were impressive. Again. The 36-16 final wasn't indicative of the excitement in the building. Or how well the Hawks' defense played. If not for the bad decision on a punt – hasn't that already happened for the home team in that building this season? – by Earl Thomas, the Hawk defense might have limited Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to fewer than double digits. And they should have. After all, the Packers' passing game only used half the field. The other half, patrolled by Richard Sherman, seemed to be posted with no-hunting signs. Rodgers didn't even look that way most of the time. As the game progressed it became almost laughable. Rodgers would drop back and try to find either whomever Bryon Maxwell or the nickelback was covering and slip the ball in. Sherman's guy? He might as well have been eating a sandwich. Corned beef, turkey, ham. Doesn't matter. He could have eaten them all. If that continues all season, Sherman is going to get rusty come the playoffs. And we all know that's the only thing that matters this season.
• Speaking of games that matter, tonight's Cougar game is the key one in this season. Yep, I know it is only the second week of the year. And yep, I know, the Cougars will still have 10 games left. But if this team is going to go bowling in back-to-back seasons, it has to win tonight. Why? Say Nevada pulls an upset and WSU drops to 0-2. To get back to the postseason, Washington State would have to win six of its final 10 games. Portland State seems a given but name games after that in which the Cougars would be favored. California? Maybe, but the Bears are much improved. Utah? It's on the road and the last time WSU went to Salt Lake City it was a forgettable performance. Arizona? Maybe. Washington? Could be, the Apple Cup is at home. But otherwise I'm not buying wins. Oregon, Stanford, Oregon State, USC and Arizona State are all tough tasks, even if the Cougars are playing well lately. So tonight is a crucial game if Washington State wants to keep its top goal in play, that is, if it wants to go bowling again.
• WSU: You know how we said yesterday there are deep connections in college football? Well, we didn't know there are more ties between Washington State and Nevada than there are in Michael Wilbon's closet. There are. Jacob Thorpe exams a few more today with his advance of tonight's must-win game. He also has a morning post today with links. ... Who wins tonight? Here is another picker who has the Cougars. ... This is an interesting story about Washington's NFL team and the coach they were supposedly named after. There are WSU ties. ... Yes, there are questions this week concerning the Cougars and the Huskies.
• Gonzaga: You'll need to be an insider to read it, but ESPN has a story on the Zags and how good they could be this season. ... The preseason NIT problems seemed to have been worked out. ... Jim Allen has his men's soccer preview and he leads with Gonzaga.
• EWU: The center is called that mainly because he's in the center of the offensive line. But he's also called that because he's the center of the action. Nothing begins on the football field until he moves. Jim Allen has a feature on Eastern center Jase Butorac today. He also has a morning post with links and he held a live chat yesterday. The Eagles play at Washington tomorrow.
• Whitworth: The Pirates, under new coach Rod Sandberg, can't wait to get started. Tom Clouse has an advance of tomorrow's season-opener at the Pine Bowl.
• Indians: A season that seemed destined for greatness ended with a thud last night, killed off by the lack of a clutch hit. Chris Derrick has the game story and a blog post on Spokane's season-ending 5-4 loss to Vancouver (pictured) in the Northwest League playoffs.
• Chiefs: Spokane's preseason continued last night with a 3-2 loss to Seattle in Kennewick.
• Preps: The high school football weekend began last night with Lewiston traveling north and throttling North Central. Greg Lee was at Albi and has this story. ... Bill Pierce, the man with all the GSL football and basketball history stuffed into his head, will share it all with everyone this year. That's really cool.
• Seahawks: What can be said? The nicest surprise from last night has to be the play of the offensive line, especially a rejuvenated James Carpenter. The former first-round pick is finally healthy and played like a road-grader much of the evening. That bodes well. Of course, the way Marshawn Lynch (pictured) was running, blocking wasn't always needed. I've said it before, Lynch turns more 1-yard losses into 3-yard gains than any running back in pro football. ... And then add in the explosiveness of Percy Harvin, who lined up in the backfield some last night, and the Hawk offense seemed to have another gear. ... Last night was the start of a new season and the Hawks want to treat it that way. ... The pregame festivities around CenturyLink must have been fun.
• Mariners: I will say it was really nice of the M's to put away the Rangers early last night, scoring six two-out runs in the second inning in a 10-2 win. The early runs allowed me to see the key parts of the game before I turned over to the Hawks game. Then, when I flipped channels during commercials, all I had to do was check the score to make sure Roenis Elias was not self-destructing. He didn't and the M's won their third consecutive game. ... Kyle Seager really likes hitting in the Rangers' park. ... Corey Hart just wants a chance to hit. Anywhere.
• That's it for now. I will be up late tonight as Dennis Patchin and I will host the Cougar call-in show on KXLY 920 after the post-game show. If you're up, join in. You can listen in on your phone using the TuneIn Radio app or you can catch it over the air on the Cougar stations on this side of the mountains. And, no, I'm not sure why the running game isn't working better. Until later ...