A GRIP ON SPORTS • Yes, we know college basketball season is underway. Eastern Washington played last night and Gonzaga hosts Texas Southern this evening. But Saturdays are still dominated by one sport: football. Now more than ever. Read on.
• Talk about crucial games. Here it is, the middle of winter – hey my yard is covered in snow, so it must be the middle of winter – and three of our local college football teams are playing hang-on-to-your-socks important contests.
• We start in Boulder, Colorado, a beautiful college town nestled in the foothills of America’s spine. It is here Washington State’s Pac-12 title hopes sit today. Get past the Buffs and the Apple Cup will once again decide the North title. Lose, and all this talk of WSU playing in the college football playoffs can stop at once.
So what happens today?
Theo Lawson feels the Cougars will win their ninth game of the season. So do the oddsmakers, who have Washington State as almost a touchdown favorite on the road. The game is on ESPN starting at 12:30 p.m. We will have our TV Take here afterward.
• Both the Big Sky Conference title and a berth in the NCAA postseason is on the line today in Cheney as well.
Neither Eastern Washington nor UC Davis can afford a loss today and expect to win the conference title outright. The Eagles come in with a loss, Davis with a perfect conference mark. But with Weber State and Idaho State also having just a single Big Sky defeat (and meeting in Ogden next Saturday), the title will come down to whomever plays better these last two weeks.
Today it might come down to which team plays better in the cold. If that’s the case, it would seem as if the Eagles will have an edge. The game is being broadcast on SWX. It starts at 1 p.m.
• Down in Moscow, there is no talk of conference championships or playoff berths. It’s just senior day for the Vandals and the first battle for the Little Brown Stein in about a million years.
OK, 15 years. But the Montana rivalry has roots back to the Depression, so it is nice to see it reborn this weekend. Root will broadcast the rivalry game beginning at 3:30 p.m.
• Whitworth has already clinched a share of the Northwest Conference title and the automatic NCAA Division III playoff berth. But the Pirates would like to finish the season undefeated.
They get that chance today at Willamette, which has won just one time this season. If there is an area school that should be favored by the largest margin today, it would be Whitworth.
• Let’s don’t forget the one college basketball game tonight. Texas Southern, which is on the road more than Jerry Seinfeld, visits Gonzaga this evening. The Tigers have already posted one upset, winning at Baylor, and would like nothing better than to put a top-five win on their resume.
Sorry, but it isn’t going to happen.
The game will be on SWX in the Spokane area and on Root outside it. We will be back here after it is over with our TV Take.
WSU: The Cougars have been finding ways to win tight, tough games this season. Colorado hasn’t. That’s the point of Theo’s preview. … He also has his pick, which we passed along above, and the key players in this afternoon’s battle. … A freshman safety that has been redshirting won’t be back in Pullman next year. … USA Today went all in Friday with its Gardner Minshew hype. … The Cougar soccer team routed Montana 5-1 at home last night to move into the second round of the NCAA tournament. … Back to football, the Times' Scott Hanson has a preview of the game. … Colorado feels it has another opportunity to make a splash.
Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Washington has a bye but there are questions to be answered. And thoughts about the conference to pass along. … Utah is really beat up on the offensive side of the football but Oregon still has to deal with a tough Ute defense. … It’s Senior Day at Stanford and the Cardinal have the best opponent possible: Oregon State. … California makes a trip south to try to do something it hasn’t done in almost a decade-and-a-half, defeat USC. … UCLA needs to win against Arizona State to keep hope alive. … In basketball, Washington was run out of the gym by Auburn, and then saw its bus go up in flames. … Oregon is denying offering a recruit money. … Finally, Utah's track program has done something special for Lauren McCluskey, the Pullman High graduate that was murdered.
Gonzaga: Jim Meehan has a preview of tonight’s game in the Kennel as well as the Texas Southern players to watch. … The Gonzaga women have been working on some things before tomorrows trip to Cheney to face Eastern. Jim Allen has a preview. … Around the WCC, the NCAA ruled on Nick Emery and BYU yesterday, putting the Cougars on probation and making them forfeit wins. No, Gonzaga doesn’t get to claim the regular-season ending game in 2017 as a victory. In NCAA-speak, it didn’t happen. … BYU did win last night. So did USD, on the road in Davis.
EWU: The best conference matchup of the season will take place today in Cheney. One team was expected before the season began, the other is the visitor from Davis. Ryan Collingwood has a preview that covers how the teams got to this point. … One of the key Eagles is center Spencer Blackburn. Ryan profiles the man in the middle of the offensive line. … Larry Weir examines all the local college football games in his most recent Press Box pod. … The Eagles’ second consecutive game vs. a ranked basketball team ended the same way, with a defeat. Oregon ran away with an 81-47 victory. … Around the Big Sky, Montana State faces Northern Colorado. … There were plenty of basketball games last night with Weber State and Northern Colorado winning and Montana State losing.
Idaho: If you like taking strolls down memory lane, the best story today would be Peter Harriman’s feature on Vandal running back Isaiah Sanders and his father Walt. … Peter also has a preview of the rivalry game with Montana.
Whitworth: The Pirates quest for a perfect season is the subject of Dan Thompson’s game preview.
Chiefs: Spokane has been scoring, but hasn’t been able to stop the opposition. The same thing happened in a 7-5 loss at Victoria last night, the Chiefs’ third consecutive defeat.
Preps: It was a special football season for Coeur d’Alene, but the run ended Friday night in the 5A semifinals at Rocky Mountain. … We also have roundups from other football games and soccer action. … A former Shadle Park High cross country runner won an NCAA regional race.
Mariners: Could Lou Piniella have had another stint in Seattle? He tells Larry Stone an offer was made.
Sounders: The loss to Portland hurts, no less so even if it was one of the best MLS matches ever.
• It will be a non-stop day for us, what with the Cougars and the Zags playing. At least they aren’t playing at the same time. Until later …
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