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A Grip on Sports: it seems like a good day to roam around the streaming services while thinking about GU, quarterbacks and playoffs

Gonzaga guard Nolan Hickman steals the ball from Pacific guard Khaleb Wilson-Rouse during the Zags’ home win last February.  (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Nolan Hickman steals the ball from Pacific guard Khaleb Wilson-Rouse during the Zags’ home win last February. (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It seems like a good day to delve into subjects ranging from depth to wild cards, from quarterbacks to, well, other quarterbacks. In other words, another Tuesday.

•••••••

• Where to start? How about with a team that isn’t playing yet. Games anyway. The Gonzaga Bulldogs.

How amazing is it a college in Spokane has turned into a national basketball power? Every year the Zags are among the favorites to win the national title. That they haven’t won one yet is not immaterial but is not overriding either. They may never break through. They may break through this season.

Either way, enjoy the moment. Mark Few’s team will be outstanding once again. And really fun to watch this season. As returning guard Nolan Hickman told the S-R’s Theo Lawson over the weekend, they’ve “got weapons” in the backcourt. And Drew Timme in the front.

Once more Gonzaga games will be must-watch TV.

• Speaking of much-watch, how about baseball’s playoffs?

All those 20- and 30-somethings out there who cut the cable cord are trying to determine what streaming package to buy this month to follow the M’s first appearance in, basically, their lifetime.

With streaming games available on ESPN+ (wild-card round) and MLB.TV (for subscribers who can prove the pay for TBS, Fox and FS1), knowing what flows into your designated viewing machine is crucial.

For those of us who are troglodytes, we just have to make sure the cable box is working – and the checking account still has enough in it to pay the monthly bill. Advantage, by a slight margin, troglodytes.

• Geno Smith has been efficient if not spectacular. Cameron Ward has been spectacular – a near-perfect left-handed pass? C’mon man – if not as efficient as Jake Dickert probably wants.

But both show on a weekly basis, albeit on different levels, how crucial quarterback play is.

When Russell Wilson and Jayden de Laura blew town in the offseason – the former via a trade, the latter via the transfer portal – followers of the Seahawks and Cougars panicked a bit. Little did they know the Hawks had the guy they needed on their roster already. And that the Cougars would be just fine thanks to the aforementioned portal.

Here we are, four weeks into the NFL schedule and Smith has already set a record. A good record. No one in the history of the league has completed a higher percentage of passes in that span. The guy rarely misses. Sure, the Hawks dink and dunk down the field (except when they get between the 50 and the opponents’ 40, then they take a shot downfield – every darn time). But Smith is finding the right guy in the right spot and getting him the ball at the right time.

That’s what quarterbacking is about.

Ward, surprisingly, has been under more pressure. But he still makes the plays the Cougars need – for the most part. Does he force some throws? Sure. Will they come back to bite WSU in the derriere sooner or later? Sure. No matter. Either he will figure it out and it’s all good or we can revel in the excitement he brings no matter the outcome.

It’s a win-win.

Just like it’s been more than we thought it would be for Washington State. And the Seahawks.

•••

WSU: It would be great if Ward took the next step in ball security this week. Sixth-ranked USC survives on forcing turnovers – those of us who watched Alex Grinch’s defenses in Pullman understand. If Ward takes care of it, as ASU did last week against the Trojans, then one of the key elements of USC’s attack, the short field, is blunted. Colton Clark has his first look at Saturday’s game. … Receiver Zeriah Beason, an Oregon State transfer, is no longer with the program, according to Dickert. Colton has that news in this notebook. … The more success WSU has, the more Dickert’s name is going to pop up for openings like the one at Wisconsin. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college football, Jon Wilner’s thoughts on the odds this weekend, as well his power ratings, show up on the Mercury News website this morning. … Before turning its attention to Arizona State, Washington is still thinking about one play at UCLA. … Oregon State has a chance to get healthy quickly at Stanford. But how healthy is the Beavers’ quarterback? … It’s been more than a decade since Oregon has won at Arizona. Will the Wildcats pull another upset in the desert or will the Ducks keep rolling? … It’s a tough business, coaching college football. A rewarding one, but tough. Colorado is looking for a new coach. And Utah’s Kyle Whittingham has some thoughts on the nature of the profession these days. … Whittingham’s Utes have to figure out a way to stop UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. … It’s a big weekend of football in Los Angeles. … Marvin Powell, one of our favorite USC players from our era of college, died this week.

Gonzaga: We mentioned (and linked) Theo’s story on Hickman above. We link it again here. … Jim Allen, who retired from full-time S-R work, is still making appearances with his coverage on the women’s team. He has a story today on the group’s early season practices. … Former GU players Rui Hachimura and Corey Kispert are dealing with different issues with the Wizards.

EWU and Idaho: Around the Big Sky, the conference has teams ranked third (Montana), fourth (Montana State), fifth (Sacramento State) and seventh (Weber State) in one of this week’s polls. … The Bobcats will take on Idaho State this week, with the Bengals coming off their best effort of the season. … UC Davis is not ranked, not after the toughest five-game stretch in school history.

Preps: Dave Nichols has a roundup of Monday’s action.

Ironman: A year-and-a-half after ACL surgery, Drew Jordan won Ironman Chattanooga. That news leads off the S-R’s latest local briefs column.

Mariners: No home games in the wild-card round. Last night’s 5-1 loss to Detroit, coupled with Toronto’s win over Baltimore, ensured it. If the Mariners are going to play a home playoff game, they will have to win a series either in Toronto (if they stay in the second wild-card spot) or Cleveland (if they fall to third). Might as well get ready to cross the border. … Julio Rodriguez has made a huge difference this season. He’s the American League rookie of the year and the catalyst for the offense. He was back in the lineup Monday.

Seahawks: The defense just can’t keep folks in front of them. Or out of the endzone. There is work to be done. … You have questions? There are answers.

•••       

• Our birthday is Saturday. We are still trying to decide whether to work. Should we: A) take the day off and do something fun, like a morning hike and then a nice dinner in the evening? Or, B) spend the evening hours watching WSU try to upset sixth-ranked USC. There is a C) actually. We could get on a plane Friday, fly to Los Angeles and spend my birthday at the Coliseum just like we used to do in our youth and near the end of our sports-writing career. Maybe we’ll do a Twitter poll and let others decide. Until later …

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