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A Grip on Sports: We are in a giving mood the day before we are supposed to give thanks

A GRIP ON SPORTS • The day before Thanksgiving is a great day to fast. To open up space for turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, mac and cheese, pumpkin pie, rolls, gravy, pearl onions and cranberry sauce. Wait, did we forget the most important part of the holiday?

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• Want a hint? It’s in the name of the holiday. You know, thanks. And giving. We’ll take care of the former tomorrow. Today we are in a giving mood.

• What gives with Oregon and Oregon State? How the heck does their rivalry game not have a name by now? We weren’t enamored of the decision to dump the long-held Civil War moniker but we understood the motivation. Football isn’t really war, and especially not the bloodiest war this country has ever been involved in.

Changing the name was, by all rights, overdue. But how the heck has it taken so long to come up with a replacement?

Just figure it out. How about the teams play for a live fir sapling every season? Each school builds a grove near their football facility. If they win, they plant the tree there and viola, problem solved.

Heck, they can start out by planting trees for each of their previous wins in the series. Label them with the year and score. Build a beautiful green space, indicative of the state (except that area just north of the California/Nevada border), that students can enjoy for the next couple centuries.

Call it the Battle for the Fir. And everyone is happy.

• What gives first with the Apple Cup this week? Will it be Washington State’s pressure defense or Washington’s high-powered offense?

As those are the two highest-profile aspects of the respective teams, it is appropriate they are receiving the majority of the discussion. But will they really decide who wins?

More than likely, yes. The team that imposes its will when UW has the ball will probably be the team hoisting the snow-dappled Cup late Saturday night. But we don’t want to forget another, often over-looked aspect that often decides such rivalry games: the special teams. From missed field goals to long kickoff returns, this rivalry has had its share of game-turning moments when neither teams’ offenses or defenses have been on the turf. Can it happen again?

Only, we believe, if coaches get too cute.

The Cougars’ Colton Theaker is capable of kicking the ball through the endzone on every kickoff, negating any chance the Huskies have of making a big play in that regard. And Nick Haberer’s punts are consistently tough to returns due to their hang time. If he makes the decision to just kick the ball, the Cougars should be OK in that regard as well.

But it’s easy to think a big play can happen as the pressure of winning against your rival leads to head-scratching choices occasionally. And disasters.

• If you are a college basketball fan, then maybe you should have decided a while back to bid adieu to your family and spend the holiday weekend in Portland.

Ok, sure, the Maui tournament is going on right now and, well, Maui. But that isn’t what being a college hoop fan is all about. Though, Maui.

Anyhow, sitting in a gym or arena 10 hours a day is what you should be pining for this weekend. And that’s available in Portland.

Starting tomorrow, two eight-team men’s divisions of the Phil Knight Birthday Celebration Basketball Tournaments (as we call them here) and one eight-team women’s division will begin play in the biggest hoop-centered birthday bash on the planet. Or at least in Oregon, home to Nike, Knight’s real gift to the world.

The games are Thursday, Friday and Sunday, with Saturday off to allow the football teams of the respective schools to hold their final regular season games. How nice of the tournament organizers. (Actually, it has to do with the broadcast partners and their crowded schedules but we will go with the magnanimous gesture.)

Think about this. You couldn’t see every game but you could watch four top-10-ranked women’s teams and seven men’s teams ranked in the AP Top 25.

Now that’s a basketball celebration worth giving thanks.

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WSU: Yes, the Cougar defense is really solid this season. A big part of the reason is Daiyan Henley, the senior transfer from Nevada who yesterday became the first Butkus Award finalist Washington State has ever had. Colton Clark has that story, of course, as well as a notebook that not only covers Apple Cup news but touches on Senior Night. Wait, they are the same this year. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college football, we can pass along Jon Wilner’s power rankings as they appeared in the S-R this morning. … Washington football coach Kalen DeBoer has had an exceptional first season. He was rewarded with a contract extension yesterday. Premature? Maybe not. … Heading into the rivalry game, Oregon is getting healthier, at least at quarterback. And there is hope at Oregon State as well. … With Utah up next, Colorado is also set to honor its seniors. … The Utes haven’t turned out a ton of great quarterbacks. … The latest CFP rankings have two-loss LSU above one-loss USC. That’s some real SEC bias there. The Trojans win out and may still get excluded. But a win over Notre Dame is a good start. … UCLA finishes up Friday against California. … Arizona State can salvage at least some of its season with a win over rejuvenated Arizona. … In basketball news, like most schools, Washington has had pluses and minuses with the transfer portal. … Oregon State has a difficult schedule ahead. … Oregon is at the Knight tournament as well. … Colorado it trying to toughen up. … Arizona’s defense resurfaced in a win over San Diego State. Next up is Creighton. … Arizona State cruised past Grambling.

Gonzaga: The Zags signed their first Australian high school men’s player in the latest signing period, Alex Toohey. He won’t be the first Australian to play at the school, of course, but the underpinnings of his journey to Spokane are pretty interesting. Theo Lawson talked with Toohey and shares his story. … Jim Meehan focuses on this year’s squad with this statistical-based look at the Bulldogs thus far. … The Zags are the highest-ranked one-loss team in the Athletic’s power rankings. … Elsewhere in the WCC, BYU is in the Bahamas where it first faces USC. … Pepperdine matches up with UCLA.

EWU and Idaho: Around the Big Sky, Montana faces Southeast Missouri State in the FCS’ opening round. … Montana State has a bye so this week is about awards. … There will be a new era in Northern Colorado football. … In basketball news, Weber State picked up a win in Las Vegas. … Northern Colorado lost to Colorado Christian, who used to be coached by a good friend. … Sacramento State lost to UC Davis, which is in the Big West in hoops. … Montana won despite some injuries. … Portland State is in the Knight tournaments and faces Gonzaga at 9:30 tomorrow night.

CCS: For the third time, the Sasquatch won the Northwest Athletic Conference women’s soccer championship. Justin Reed has the story.

Preps: A Mt. Spokane graduate led Doane University’s soccer team and was honored for it. That news leads off the S-R’s latest local sports column.

Seahawks: DK Metcalf was fined about $30,000 for whatever he said to the official in Germany. It was probably worth it. … Cornerback Tre Brown is back from his knee surgery and ready to compete for the starting job again.

Mariners: Ryan Divish looks at who might fill out the M’s outfield. We are still hoping for Cody Bellinger but realistically see him playing somewhere else in 2023.

Sounders: Seattle will be rebuilding this offseason. Rebuilding the front office. Garth Lagerwey left for Atlanta.

Kraken: Seattle seems to be making all the right moves these days.

World Cup: Argentina lost to Saudi Arabia? Mexico shut out Poland? What gives with that?

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• It was carnitas for Taco Tuesday. Not just carnitas but exceptional carnitas. Wow. Guess Kim is on top of her game at the moment. Next up for her culinary skills? Taking Thursday off as we head to a local restaurant for our Thanksgiving. Until later …

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