A GRIP ON SPORTS
Let's look into the future 14 days. Two Saturday's hence, Cougar football fans should be over their hangover after the Thursday night opener with BYU, either good or bad. Eastern fans should be as well, though Idaho fans will be thinking one of two things depending on the outcome vs. the Eagles: We should change leagues now, because we could dominate the Big Sky or wow, it's going to be a long year. Read on.
• The dust is settling in Moscow now the Idaho State Board of Education has given the Vandals the go-ahead to explore moving its sports teams to the Big Sky. Yep, I wrote that right. First, the Vandals will play this season as a member of the WAC, but that conference will almost surely be gone at the end of the school year. So the school now has the option of moving its teams into the closer Big Sky, a FCS conference in football but the equal of the WAC in all other sports. The board gave UI president Duane Nellis permission to move the football team to the Big Sky as well, without further approval, if that's what he deems necessary. But Nellis and athletic director Rob Spear will explore another option first, that of a football independent. We covered that territory here yesterday (and Josh Wright has more in a blog post and story) so we won't rehash it. Suffice to say, there are challenges (scheduling foremost among them) with being a football independent, so some sort of bailout provision is needed. And I think it's telling that Spear, talking with us on the radio show yesterday, admitted if the Vandals find another FBS conference to join in the next two years (their self-imposed deadline for independent play), he and Nellis would have to approach the board for approval. Big Sky, no. Any FBS conference, yes. Which of those two scenarios to do you think the powers-that-be at Idaho feel is more possible. Yep, the Big Sky. I expect UI to be playing for a Big Sky title in 2015, about the same year the Mariners hope to turn it around.
• Speaking of the Mariners, Hisashi Iwakuma came a heck of a lot closer to throwing the M's second consecutive perfect game than I ever thought he would. I predicted yesterday sometime around 7:25 for the perfect streak ending and I was way off. The Twins didn't have a base runner until the fifth, closer to 8:25 than 7:25.
• Washington State: If you are wondering why the Cougars have switched around their practice times this week it's simple. The team is practicing game-week scenarios. There was a morning practice Wednesday before a bus trip to Lewiston, where the team spent the night after going through the equivalent of pregame meetings. Then there was more meetings before the bus trip back Thursday, with the team holding a short, game-like scrimmage in Martin Stadium. Finally, Friday, the practice was a short one at night, just like the Sunday practices will be during the season. When WSU gets ready to play BYU in less than two weeks, the procedures will feel familiar and the players should be a bit more comfortable. That's a smart coaching move. As for Friday's practice, it was pretty laid-back, as Christian Caple's blog post shows. Christian also has his usual morning post and this preview story on the linebackers. If the linebacking corps holds up, the defense will be OK. If it doesn't, the defense will struggle. It's that simple. ... Cougar great Gail Codgill (pictured above with his wife Dian) needs some medical help. Jim Allen has the story. ... I know Craig Hill is an alum of WSU and I'm not. But I knew a long time ago Dolph Lundgren attended the school and played in the band. The band director told me. Anyhow, Hill's News Tribune story about the actor is pretty funny. ... Jim Moore has this piece in Cougfan about the new broadcasting team. You might note a familiar name in there about halfway down. ... At this time in camp, most fans aren't sure what to make of their team. These guidelines from Brian Floyd at CougCenter are worth taking note of. ... Ted Miller on ESPN.com has an abbreviated mailbag from yesterday. Ask more questions people. It's my favorite part of the week. ... UW's basketball team got better yesterday when the Huskies lured Western Washington head coach Brad Jackson down I-5 to join their staff. Jackson, a WSU grad, led the Vikings to the NCAA Division II title last year. ... Finally, the kickoff rules have changed, so if your kicker has a decent leg, he'll get it to the endzone. However, a downed ball comes out to the 25 this season, so there is less incentive to put the ball through the endzone.
• Indians: The last trip to Yakima (and no, even I wouldn't try to sell a film treatment based on that) isn't going well for the Indians, who lost 6-1.
• Mariners: I'm a bit impressed the Mariners played so well Friday after dealing with the hangover they must have experienced following Felix Hernandez's perfect game. The day off Thursday must have really helped. But with Iwakuma throwing well and the catching staff supplying power (John Jaso and Miguel Olivio hit home runs), the M's rolled over Minnesota, 5-3, part of a second half marked by improved pitching.
• Seahawks: The Hawks are back on the field tonight, this time in Denver for a matchup with the Denver Mannings. Terrell Owens (shown at left trying to get away from a hold in practice) will be there, Braylon Edwards will be there, Matt Flynn will be there and Marshawn Lynch, well I'm just not sure if he'll be there.
• Sounders: A big day in Seattle as the Sounders host Vancouver in a key MLS game. The league changed its tiebreaking rules earlier this season, rewarding teams that score goals. So the Sounders need to make sure they get clear of Vancouver and the Galaxy, because the tiebreaker doesn't fall their way. ... The newest Sounder talks.
• Golf: Jim Meehan's column this week covers Chambers Bay, the site of the 2015 U.S. Open and only a day's drive away.
• You don't know how much I am looking forward to today. This semi-retired thing sucks (to be clear, the retired part is great; the semi part sucks). Until later ...