Seen & Heard on Planet Coug

WASHINGTON STATE'S non-conference football schedule may not be all that daunting, but the same cannot be said for the Cougars’ Pac-12 slate. Sports Illustrated released its preseason Top 25 Wednesday, and the Cougars face five of the teams -- ranked between 10th to 18th -- during a six-week stretch.

After opening conference play at unranked Cal, WSU travels to No. 10 Oregon, plays unranked Oregon State at homecoming in Pullman, visits No. 15 Arizona, returns home to face No. 17 Arizona State and No. 18 Stanford, then hits the road to meet No. 14 UCLA. The Cougars finish up against Colorado at home and Washington in Seattle. Neither of those teams is ranked.

WSU avoids No. 8 USC, the sixth Pac-12 team ranked by SI.

The Cougars hope to gain momentum by playing Portland State, Rutgers and Wyoming in non-league games, with only the Rutgers contest on the road. Bruce Feldman of FoxSports.com ranks WSU’s non-league schedule the eighth-easiest (tied with Baylor) among Power 5 conference teams.

IN USA TODAY'S RECENT COLLEGE FOOTBALL preview publication, WSU is ranked No. 90 among the 128 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The only lower-ranked teams in the conference are Oregon State (92) and Colorado (98).

USA Today clearly doesn't think much of the Cougs, predicting a 2-7 conference record and 5-7 overall mark, and stating that the losses of Connor Halliday, Vince Mayle, Isiah Myers and Daquawn Brown "could be a disaster."

The respect for the Cougars is a little better closer to home. Pac-12 beat writer Jon Wilner of the Mercury News in San Jose shared his ballot in last week's conference media poll. He picked the Cougars to finish fourth in the North, ahead of UW and OSU and behind Oregon, Stanford and Cal.

Another California-based scribe, Scott Wolfe of the Los Angeles Daily News, is also more positive than negative on the Cougs. "Despite the struggles (last season), there are actually reasons to believe Washington State poses a challenge to conference opponents ... Mike Leach just needs to pull off two upsets to get people off his back," Wolf wrote this week.

THE NUMBER OF FOOTBALL FANS PLAYING IN NFL fantasy leagues this season is forecast to climb to 57 million from 40 million a year ago. And CF.C's very own national network, Scout.com, is ready to help with overall and position-by-position analyses. CLICK HERE to tap into the wealth of insight.

CHIP KELLY HAS RECEIVED PLENTY OF criticism for his relationships – or lack thereof – with players. However, the Philadelphia Eagles coach expressed empathy for Travis Long when the former WSU star this week suffered a season-ending knee injury for the second year in a row.

“You just feel awful ... I think all the players feel the same way, because they know how much he’s invested in this,” Kelly told reporters at training camp in Philadelphia. Kelly met with the press Tuesday for the first time since Long was injured Monday.

Long tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee for the second straight year. He tore his right ACL in his next-to-last college game in 2012.

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Kelly was coaching Oregon when he took a liking to Long and signed him as an undrafted free agent after taking over the Eagles in 2013. Long has yet to play in a regular-season NFL game, but he was listed as Philadelphia’s top backup at outside linebacker in camp.

Kelly said Long was injured during a punt-return drill. “It wasn’t really a contract drill,” Kelly said. “He was just getting ‘fit up’ and kinda stepped the wrong way. I think he kind of knew when it happened, just because it’s happened before. I don’t even think there’s a real explanation for it, to be honest with you.”

Long started all 47 games of his WSU career before missing the Apple Cup against Washington in 2012.

BROCK MOTUM IS ON THE MOVE AGAIN. The old Cougar, who led the Pac-12 in scoring his final two seasons at WSU, has joined Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania’s top pro basketball league. Based in the city of Kaunas, the club won the league championship last season with a 38-4 record.

Motum spent his first pro season in Italy, then played in his native Australia last season. He made the All-National Basketball League first team, averaging 17.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game for the Adelaide (Australia) 36ers.

ANOTHER FORMER WSU BASKETBALL STANDOUT, Jazmine Perkins, has signed with the pro women’s team in Haskovo, Bulgaria. Perkins has pro experience in Israel, Sweden and Poland. She is the only WSU player, male or female, to finish her college career with 1,000 points, 700 rebounds and 250 steals.

Katie Grad, a teammate of Perkins at WSU, this week was named Puget Sound regional director for the Cougar Athletic Fund. The CAF raises money for athletic scholarships at Washington State.

”I’m thrilled to have the crimson and gray back on,” Grad said in a WSU news release. “The Cougar Athletic Fund made it possible for me to play basketball at WSU, and I’m looking forward to helping current and future student-athlete receive the same opportunities I was given.”

Grad has experience as a project coordinator with the Seattle Sports Commission and had been planning to be CF.C's basketball analyst this season for both men's and women's hoops; for conflict-of-interest reasons, CF.C sadly must find a new analyst.

“My passion for the Cougs has never gone away,” Grad said. “I enjoyed an incredible experience during my time at WSU, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to give back to a school that gave so much to me.”

MIAMI MARLINS MANAGER DAN JENNINGS SAID former Washington State pitcher Adam Conley may soon make his second Major League start. Conley has made two relief appearances since being promoted from Class AAA New Orleans for the third time this season last weekend. He’s 1-0 with a 2.61 earned run average in four games with Miami.

After winning his only Major League start July 11, Conley told the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Sun-Sentinel he made some adjustments when he was sent back to New Orleans “because some of the things I realized I was kind of getting away with down in Triple-A, I realized I may not necessarily get away with in the big leagues.”

Conley, 25, ranks among the Pacific Coast League leaders with nine wins and a 2.52 ERA. He’s lost three times in 19 PCL appearances, including 18 starts.

Two other former WSU baseball players recently moved up in the minor leagues.

The Pittsburgh Pirates promoted infielder Trace Tam Sing from West Virginia in the low Class A South Atlantic League to Bradenton (Fla.) in the advanced Class A Florida State League. Tampa Bay sent pitcher Ty Jackson from the low Rookie-class Gulf Coast League to Princeton (W.Va.) in the advanced Rookie-class Appalachian League.

Tam Sing, a second-year pro, hit just .210 with no home runs at West Virginia, but he pounded eight doubles and two triples and drove in 21 runs in 28 games. Jackson, a first-year pro who finished up his collegiate career at Lewis-Clark State, went 0-1 with a 1.13 ERA and two saves in eight games (all in relief) for the GCL Rays of Port Charlotte, Fla.

Meanwhile, A 10-game hitting streak has helped ex-WSU third baseman Nick Tanielu move into fourth place in batting average (.314) and fifth place in RBIs (57) in the Midwest League. Tanielu, drafted by Houston in the 14th round last year, plays for Class A Quad Cities in Davenport, Iowa.

THE PRINCETON REVIEW IS OUT THIS WEEK with the results of its annual "happiest college students in the U.S." survey and Washington State partisans were atwitter on Twitter with the findings. Ol' Wazzu checked in at No. 14 in the nation, the only Pac-12 school in the top 20.

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