Seen & Heard on Planet Coug

WASHINGTON STATE’s football team will be a “legit threat in the North Division” given the talent returning to the club, ESPN.com’s Ted Miller wrote this week.

His comment came at the end of a short paragraph asking if a Sun Bowl victory was more important to WSU or Miami.

For the record, Miller said WSU because a loss would be its second straight of the season and no doubt would “leave an annoying taste in the mouth” despite the great overall season. A victory, he noted, also gives the Cougs a chance to finish in the top 25 – a major achievement for a program that has been there at season’s end since the 2003 campaign.

Miller’s ESPN colleague David Purdum is out with his list of “bowl betting nuggets” and lists WSU-Miami among the seven greatest statistical mismatches of the post season, noting that WSU has the No. 1 red zone offense (.943) in the nation and Miami has the No. 108 red zone defense.

Purdum also lists the Cougs and Canes on his list of schools with the greatest disparity in NFL-caliber talent. His says the Canes have 10 NFL bona fides and the Cougs four. His didn’t name names.

The Cougs and Canes kick off at 11 a.m. Pacific Time on Dec. 26, with TV coverage on CBS. WSU is a 2 ½-point favorite. Both teams are 8-4.

As for 2016, Miller’s optimism is easy to understand. Consider the following:

  • On defense, the Cougars return 16 of the 22 guys in the two deeps on the official WSU depth chart.

  • On offense, eight of 11 starters – most notably star quarterback Luke Falk – will be back in action (eight, that is, presuming fifth-year-senior-to-be Gabe Marks doesn’t opt early for the NFL).

  • And all the specialists are back in the form of kicker Erik Powell, punter Zach Charme, and long snapper Lucas Gravelle – not to mention kickoff return man Tavares Martin.

    Then there’s the schedule, which was unveiled yesterday and, on balance, looks pretty attractive — especially when you consider that the Cougs play seven games in Pullman for the first time since 1999.

    The non-conference slate has two should-be wins in Eastern Washington and Idaho plus what some are calling a toss up-type contest at Boise State. The Cougs then get a bye, giving them two weeks to prepare for their Pac-12 opener – in Pullman – against North Division foe Oregon. Then it’s on the road to Stanford, meaning we’ll have a great sense by the close of Oct. 8 whether the Cougs are North Division title contenders.

    The Cougs then get UCLA in Pullman before hitting the road on consecutive weeks at ASU and OSU and then wrapping up with three of their final four at home: Arizona, Cal and UW. Colorado is the lone November road trip.

    USC is not on the schedule, nor is Utah.

    FUTURE COUGAR QUARTERBACK CODY BREWER out of Corpus Christi was named honorable mention Associated Press Texas Class 5A All-State on Wednesday. This season the Flour Bluff High product completed 175 of 300 passes for 2,352 yards, 23 TDs and 10 INTs. He also rushed 81 times for 510 yards and 7 TDs. In three years as a starter he passed for 7,734 yards and rushed for 972.

    Also a standout basketball player, Brewer earned All-State recognition in hoops last season.

    WSU GREAT KLAY THOMPSON SCORED scored 43 points Wednesday to lead Golden State over Phoenix in a bounce-back victory following the Warriors' only loss of the year. Thompson scored 27 points in the third quarter. Another old Cougar basketballer, Aron Baynes, had a stellar return for the Detroit Pistons on Monday after missing time for surgery on a broken nose. Wearing a clear face mask, Baynes came off the bench against the Clippers to score 10 points, including a thunderous slam, on 5-for-6 accuracy from the field. He also had six rebounds in his 13 minutes of action.

    "He was playing well and then he got the nose thing, I think that set him back a little bit," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters. "He came back really strong and I thought he played really, really well. I think he's one of the best backup centers in the league, there's no question about it, and I think that's really, really big for us."

    MARK YOUR CALENDARS: The Washington State football program’s annual post-LOI Day tour around the state is all set. "Night with Cougar Football" events are scheduled for: Spokane, Feb. 3 at Northern Quest Casino; Tri-Cities, Feb. 5 at the Pasco Red Lion; Portland/Vancouver Feb. 13 at the Vancouver Hilton; and Seattle, Feb. 27 at the downtown Sheraton. CLICK HERE to book seats at any of the events.

    NOTABLE NOTE:
    The Sun Bowl, which is tucked next to the majestic Franklin Mountains, is ranked among the 10 bowl venues with the best natural scenery, according to the wesbite lawnstarter.com.

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