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Grip on Sports: The Inland Northwest is having a college football season for the ages

A GRIP ON SPORTS • You may not have been awake to see it, but Washington State crushed California last night 56-21. And, unless you were in Cheney, you probably didn’t see Eastern Washington wallop Idaho State 48-17. Pretty good college football around here. Read on.

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And, as those fly-by-night TV ads always say, wait, there’s more. … Idaho became bowl eligible with a 47-14 shellacking of Texas State in San Marcos. And, finally, Whitworth completed its season with another rout, 53-20 at Lewis & Clark. That’s four Inland Northwest college football teams, that’s four wins, that’s a combined score, by my math, of 1 gazillion to not very much, give or take a little. Actually, the combined score is 204-72, which is funny enough without exaggeration.

Think about this: Washington State is 8-2 overall, 7-0 in the Pac-12 North. The Cougars have won eight consecutive games, the first time that’s happened since 1930. Yes, 1930. They are also just eight points from being 10-0 and smack dab in the middle of the College Football Playoff hunt.

One of their three-point losses came in the season opener against Eastern Washington. The Eagles are 9-1 overall, 7-0 in Big Sky play and ranked second nationally. They will be in the FCS playoffs and may be the top seed.

Idaho, which lost by huge margins to Washington and Washington State early in the season, has bounced back to win six times and is 4-2 in Sun Belt play. There is a bowl somewhere who will be happy to host the Vandals and their faithful.

And though the Pirates probably won’t be playing in the Division III postseason, they have had another successful season, only losing their season opener by a point in overtime and then a tight one with nationally ranked Linfield.

Honestly, there never has been a better college football season around here. We’re taking about the global picture, not individual schools. Yes, WSU has had top-10 seasons. And Eastern won a national title. Idaho twice made the 1-AA semifinals – and two Humanitarian Bowl wins. Whitworth has made a run or two in the Division III playoffs. But never have all four schools been really good, this good, at the same time.

• Speaking of the Cougars, they found out when they will be playing Saturday at Colorado. They found out this morning. Isn’t scheduling-by-television’s whim grand?

Believe it or not, Fox had the first pick of Pac-12 games. It chose WSU at Colorado. How many of you, back in September, thought that would be the best game of the day this upcoming Saturday? The game will start at 12:30 p.m., PST. A day game. How rare.

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WSU: We got home from Pullman last night after 2:30 this morning. We did, however, see every play of the Cougar win. And for some reason, in a game that included 11 touchdowns and some of the more exciting plays you’ll see, the game overall had sort of a quiet feel to it. Odd. Anyway, Jacob Thorpe has the game story, a nice piece on Gabe Marks setting the all-time Pac-12 receiving record, the key moments, the players of the game, the scoring and a short story on a breakout star, Nate DeRider. Oh, and a piece on the Holiday Bowl keeping an eye on the Cougs, who have their eyes on Roses I’m sure. … John Blanchette has a column in which he recounts a not-so-typical Pac-12 Saturday in the Northwest. … Tyler Tjomsland has a whole bunch of pictures. … There is also coverage of the game from Stefanie Loh in the Times, though it was drowned out a bit in the Puget Sound by the other conference game in the state. … California has not scored more than 27 points in any of its last three games.

Elsewhere in Pac-12 football, the Cougars’ win puts them atop these conference power rankings. Why? Partly because Washington’s hopes of an undefeated regular season were sacked by USC and its resurgent defense. … Is this the end for Mark Helfrich? (The answer is, actually, yes.) Oregon didn’t have much fight in a blowout home loss to Stanford. … UCLA snapped its losing streak by getting past visiting Oregon State. … Colorado wasn’t looking ahead to WSU. Either that or Arizona is that bad.

Gonzaga: The GU women opened their season yesterday with Elle Tinkle returning from injury to lead them to an easy win.

EWU: It was Senior Day in Cheney and the Eagles said goodbye to a bunch. None will be missed more, however, than Cooper Kupp, the most prolific receiver in FCS history and quite possibly the best receiver in the nation. Jim Allen has the game story and a notebook about the contest. Dan Pelle has the photographs from Cheney. … The Eagle women’s soccer team fell 3-1 to USC in its first NCAA appearance. … Around the Big Sky in football, Montana is still looking for its first road win of the season, while Northern Colorado is just happy to have a Big Sky win. … North Dakota rallied from a 21-point halftime deficit to top Northern Arizona and stay undefeated. … Host Montana State got past UC Davis. … Weber State may have assured Cal Poly will not make the playoffs. … Sacramento State finally won, defeating Portland State. … Southern Utah was blown out by BYU.

Idaho: As we said, the Vandals traveled to Texas, won, and are bowl eligible. … The basketball team opened its season on campus and also won. Josh Wright has the story.

Whitworth: The season will end 8-2 for the Pirates after the win in Portland.

Chiefs: Kailer Yamamoto scored late to tie it and then again in overtime as the Chiefs rallied past Everett, 3-2. Tom Clouse was in the Arena and has the story.

Preps: The State volleyball tournaments finished yesterday, with Mead and Mt. Spokane ending up one win short of a title. Greg Lee has both stories. … Lakeside won the 1A title and Oakesdale the 1B championship. … West Valley moved on the 2A football playoffs. That’s part of our roundup.

Seahawks: The Hawks are in New England for a Super Bowl rematch from not that long ago. But both teams are different. And those differences should be evident tonight.

Mariners: The M's picked up another bat yesterday.

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• No more late night Washington State football games this season. Unless the Cougars make the Pac-12 title game. And then there's a bowl game to come. Until later …

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