Cougar Gameday, and a potential key

AFTER ALL THE offseason work over the winter, spring ball, the summer's voluntary workouts and fall camp, the 2007 Cougar Football season finally kicks off Saturday at 12:30 pm PT with a visit to the Madison to take on the highly regarded No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers. Some questions that will be answered, a link or two plus one potential very big key to the game you haven't heard much about.

The Washington State - Wisconsin tilt will be televised to a national audience. ABC has the game on for 51 percent of the nation. Others can view it on ESPN or ESPN2. Click here for the ABC coverage map.

12:30 pm Pacific Time

Camp Randall Stadium (80,321)

ABC or ESPN national with Bob Griese and Paul Maguire doing the color.

The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings

Wisconsin by 14

AS FOR THE KEYS to the game, take your pick. From the offensive line to the defensive front, there are any number of important matchups that will help determine today's outcome. One in particular, however, has not received much play.

It's not about the quarterback, running backs or wide receivers. Nor does it have anything to do with the defensive line, linebackers or defensive backs.

It's not about special teams.

What Washington State does in terms of scheme with their tight ends might end up being the difference.

Jed Collins has a knack for finding the seams and in a stout defense like Wisconsin's, that's going to be required if the Cougars are to win.

Collins probably won't be the leading grabmaster on the day, and given the receiver talent wearing the crimson and gray, it's unlikely he'll even have the game's longest pass reception. But he may be the guy who gets that third down conversion at a critical juncture. He might also be the guy who turns a simple 4-yard skinny into an long distance momentum changer.

But receiving production out of the tight end spot is just the tip of the iceberg here.

Will Washington State keep the tight end home in max-protect in the face of what is expected to be a formidable Badger pass rush? Will the Cougs utilize some two tight end sets? And if so, what will those tight ends do, go out in pattern, lead block or stay home and pick up the rush?

Will the tight ends be key components in the running game -- will Collins, Ben Woodard and/or Devin Frischknecht deliver the final, crucial block that is the difference between a 1-yard gain or a 22-yard romp by Dwight Tardy and/or Chris Ivory?

Or will it be a mix and match -- or all of the above, and them some.

One thing is certain, we're about to find out.

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