No reason to make you wait to the end for the pick on this one.
There’s simply no logical reason to think the Cougars can beat the Huskies tomorrow — heck, even the world’s biggest WSU fan is having trouble mustering much faith in the Cougs.
Consider that the Pac-10 keeps 33 team statistical categories and WSU is dead last in 22 of them, including almost all of the real biggies —- scoring offense and defense, total offense and defense, rushing offense and defense and passing defense (WSU is a whopping ninth in pass offense, ahead of only Oregon which often barely even tries to throw).
Consider further that the NCAA charts 17 team stats and WSU is 100th or worse (out of 120 teams) in 14. That includes a dead last in total defense and a 119th in total offense.
It’s hard to imagine any BCS team has ever been this bad numbers-wise — the Cougars were better than that last year as were the Huskies, who weren’t even trying the last half of the season.
WSU athletic director Jim Sterk, though, insists he sees progress — and I wish he’d been my math teacher when I was in junior high.
I know the Cougars won last year. But that game was in Pullman and UW was without Jake Locker, a head coach and a pulse. And yes, there have been some other big upsets in the history of the series and anything is always possible and yada, yada, yada.
The reality is that the Huskies have no business not beating the Cougars soundly and if they don’t, much of the good accomplished so far this season evaporates. If UW is not demonstrably better than WSU tomorrow, there’s some explaining to do.
The Cougars do have a few guys playing at a fairly high level — center Kenny Alfred, running back Dwight Tardy, WR Jared Karstetter, safety Xavier Hicks, DE Travis Long.
But I don’t see any position grouping where UW doesn’t have an edge.
If there’s one matchup where the Cougars can give the Huskies some problems it is with its receivers against UW’s secondary. Karstetter is 6-4 and a tough matchup for anyone, and some of the rest of the guys are kind of heady — true frosh Gino Simone shows lots of potential and has 33 catches this year and some of the other guys have made some plays at times. WSU’s best play of late has been to throw it up deep and let a receiver win a one-on-one matchup — the Cougars didn’t score a rushing touchdown from Oct. 3 until last week, scoring its eight TDs in the interim all through the air, including passes of 99, 68, 64 and 46.
So if WSU QB Kevin Lopina gets any time, it won’t be a shock if he can throw a few up that find their way into the hands of his receivers. But there’s no real reason to think the Cougars can consistently move the ball on UW as they haven’t on anyone in the Pac-10 all year — and while UW’s defense hasn’t been good, especially of late, I really can’t believe its worse than, say, SMU, which held WSU to 276 yards and 37 rushing, losing only because it threw four interceptions.
Defensively, the Cougars are bad everywhere and Chris Polk should be able to run through them and Locker pass over them and the receivers catch passes above them. WSU just gave up 556 yards at home to a UCLA team that ranks below UW in most Pac-10 offensive statistical categories.
And then there are is the most amazing stat of all, that WSU has been outscored 173-6 in first quarters this season, getting measly field goals against Cal and Oregon State. Has any Pac-10 team ever gone an entire season without scoring a TD in the first quarter? Even really bad teams can usually move the ball for a little while before the other team adjusts and talent takes over.
I guess if the Huskies for some reason come out slowly and let the Cougars hang around that it could stay close for a while — that’s the whole key to this one for UW, to put the hammer down early and end it before barely even starts, as just about everyone else has done to WSU this year. The coaches, though, seemed to be doing what they can to ward off any lethargy as there seemed to be as many loud voices and stern tones in practice as we’ve heard all year.
Add it up, and this should be the first real rout in this series since the 2000 game. Call it, Washington 45-16, the Huskies covering the Vegas spread, if not quite eclipsing the Middleton line.