Cougs need more SMU's on schedule

PAUL WULFF MAY start seeing June Jones in his sleep. WSU will play Jones' current team, Southern Methodist, and his old one, Hawaii, in successive weeks this fall. The SMU half of that equation is welcome news. The Mustangs, on life support since receiving the NCAA death penalty in 1987, were 1-11 this past season. Jones is outstanding but unless he's a miracle worker the Cougs should bank on a W.

WSU is rebuilding, so putting a cream puff on the schedule makes immense sense. In fact, loading up on cream puffs would make even more sense. Three early victories in a season can do wonders for confidence -- and also supply some ballast when it comes to bowl hunting time.

Unfortunately, SMU -- whom the Cougs will face Sept. 19 in Pullman -- is the only non-conference sure-thing on WSU's 2009 schedule.


Hawaii -- on tap for Qwest Field Sept. 12 -- beat the Cougs handily a few weeks back. And Notre Dame, which WSU will play in San Antonio on Halloween, is coming off a bowl win ... over Hawaii.

Given the strength of the Pac-10, scheduling three non-conference gimmes would make a lot of sense right about now. You needn't look farther than LSU to see why. The Tigers lost a whopping five SEC games this season. Yet they just played in a bowl game thanks in part to four non-conference wins they secured by a collective score of 157-57 over the likes of Troy, Tulane, North Texas and Appalachian State.

As for SMU, forecasting a sure win over the Mustangs when the Cougs are coming off a woeful 2-11 campaign may seem a tad cheeky. Until you understand the depths of SMU's depression.

The Mustangs have one winning season in the last 18. They play in Conference USA, which is no Pac-10, and haven't defeated a league opponent since 2006. Their lone win this past season was against Texas State. They year before, the sole victory was against North Texas.

Jones, after nine seasons of stellar duty at Hawaii, was brought in for $2 million a season to right the once-proud program and wake the echoes of Doak Walker and Eric Dickerson.

It's been a rough start. The Mustangs scored 75 fewer points in 2008 than 2007 and generated nearly 2,000 fewer total yards.

• While the Pac-10 portion of the Cougars' 2009 schedule is still being worked out, it is believed that WSU will open its season Sept. 5 against Stanford.

• The WSU-SMU game is part of a home-and-deal between the schools. The Cougs will travel to Dallas for a game in 2010.

• This September's meeting between WSU and SMU will be the first between the schools.

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