The Dirty Dozen of Cougs and Beavs

TRY THIS ONE ON for size: The bowl-bound Washington State Cougars. Has a nice ring to it, don't ya think? Now, whether it will ring true remains to be seen. But is there one of us -- I mean, seriously, ONE of us -- who honestly gave a fleeting thought to the possibility of the Cougars going to a bowl game when they were getting their spleens punched in five weeks ago at Oregon?

Eight more quarters of football -- give or take an overtime session or 10 -- and the Cougars could be headed somewhere warm (hopefully). Or, with a Saturday loss to Oregon State or a loss at Washington next week, the Cougars will be forced to spend quality time with loved ones over the holidays.

No offense, Mom and Dad, but there's about 100 young men in Cougar uniforms who hope to see you as little as possible around Christmastime. We trust you'll understand.

Hey, it can't be any more difficult than trying to understand the Dirty Dozen sometimes. Shall we give it one more try?

1. View From Pullman:
Optimistic. What's not to love about a match-up between WSU's 10th-ranked passing offense and a Beaver secondary that will be missing one starter and two reserves for the first half due to last week's shenanigans versus Washington? What? Oh, right. What's not to love about this match-up is that the Beavers lead the nation in rushing defense, and the Cougars often have trouble running the ball against moist towelettes.

2. View From Corvallis:
Dazed and confused. Will the Beavers be jacked up, knowing they need just one win to guarantee a bowl trip? Or will they come out flatter than Calista Flockart because a) They're coming off a highly emotional win over Washington that made them bowl eligible; b) they're looking past WSU to the Civil War with Oregon; or c) they're intimated by all the glitz and glamour of Pullman. The latter concept seems like the most plausible explanation for Oregon State's 1-10-1 record in Pullman since 1980.

3. Scouting Report:
We love the potential of sophomore running back Chris Ivory as much as the next guy in the check-out line, but that potential needs to go unrealized for at least one half Saturday. Alex Brink and his dazzling receivers are too much to handle for just about any secondary, never mind one missing three bodies. Throw it short, throw it medium, throw it deep, and keep doing it until Oregon State's DB's are panting like dogs on a hot summer day. Expect another solid performance from the WSU defense -- a few weeks back, who would have thought THAT line could be typed with a straight face? -- against an OSU offense that is missing its best quarterback (Sean Canfield) and best receiver (Sammie Stroughter).

4. Betcha Didn't Know:
Oregon State holds the major college record of 28 consecutive losing seasons. Let's soak that in for a moment. That means hordes of OSU players were born, raised, graduated from college, got married and started raising their own children between OSU's winning seasons of 1970 and 1999. The Beavers are the only Pac-10 team that WSU leads in the all-time series (47-41-3).

5. The Rankings:
The streets of Pullman are alive with Cougar fans shouting, "We're No. 117! We're No. 117!" OK, so we lied. Still, after spending most of the season ranked dead last among the 119 teams in the Bowl Championship Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division I-A) at stopping opponents on third down, the Cougars moved up to No. 117 when Stanford went 5-for-18 last Saturday. WSU's opponents succeed 52 percent of the time on third down, and 64 percent of the time on fourth down, which ranks 106th. Oregon State is sixth on third down (28.9) and eighth on fourth down (28.6). In the weekly national rankings, WSU (58th) jumped back in front of Washington (72nd). OSU is 42nd.

6. Cougar Trivia Department:
The Cougars lead the Pac-10 in passing and rank second in total offense and first downs, but they're eighth in red-zone scoring, ninth in overall scoring and 10th in time of possession. Makes you wonder about some of the play-calling, doesn't it?

7. Beaver Trivia Department:
Jim Wilson, who had a cup of coffee with the Seattle Mariners in 1989, is in his fourth year as the radio color analyst for Beaver football broadcasts. Wilson played football and baseball at OSU.

8. Alumni Hall:
The Beavers have produced one more Heisman Trophy winner (1962 quarterback Terry Baker) and one more major league baseball no-hitter (1979 Houston Astros pitcher Ken Forsch) than Washington State.

9. Cougar Talk:
Tight end Tony Thompson, speaking to his cousin, Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard, after last week's Cougar win over the Cardinal: "He said, ‘Why can't you get (WSU linebacker) Greg Trent out of my face? Man, he was in there all day.'"

10. Beaver Talk:
Coach Mike Riley, joking after Cougar coach Bill Doba pleaded with WSU students to stay for the game before leaving on Thanksgiving break: "I think they should go on home. I think they should spend more time with their families."

11. Opinion Of The Week:
No way Doba and his assistants get fired if the Cougars go bowl-ing, in no small part because of the $2.8 million that would be owed them. Now, a good deal of that cash would be spread out for years for tax purposes for the recipients. Also, assistant coaches (whose contracts run through June 2009) get nothing if they are hired elsewhere before they are fired. Finally, athletic director Jim Sterk could force the new head coach to retain some assistants. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better offensive line coach than George Yarno or wide receiver coach than Mike Levenseller, and they both recruit superbly and love living in the Palouse. Safeties coach Leon Burtnett has been invaluable in coaching the 3-4 defense, and he's opened up a whole new recruiting world for WSU in Texas.

12. And Your Final Score Is:
Washington State 24, Oregon State 21 (OT).

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