A weekly series from CougCenter, the Tailgater's Guide is dedicated to helping you prepare for all the action on Cougar Football Saturday; both on the field and off.
Arizona State Sun Devils (2-2, 0-1 Pac-10) at Washington State Cougars (1-4, 0-3 Pac-10)
Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA, 2 p.m. Pacific
Radio: Cougar Sports Radio Network
ASU 31, WSU 0 (2008)
Why you should care: Homecoming! People still care about that, right?
Key matchup: The WSU passing game versus the ASU pass defense.
We know the ASU offense is stuggling. As is the WSU defense. Let's pretend those cancel each other out. So, the key becomes the Cougar offense against the Sun Devil defense. Now, we aren't going to be able to run the ball. Like I mentioned on the podcast, ASU has the 10th best defense against the run in the entire country, in terms of yards per attempt allowed. WSU's run game is far from potent, especially with an injury-riddled offensive line and Montgomery's injury. So we're going to need a miracle to move the ball on the ground.
Therefore, if we have any shot at winning this game, we'll need the passing attack to do something. Anything. Whether it's Tuel or Lobbestael (hopefully Tuel) at the helm, the Cougars need to do whatever they can to get the ball in the hands of their young receiving corps. It's not going to be easy: ASU is 30th in pass defense with 6 yards per attempt surrendered. There's also linebacker Mike Nixon and his 3 INTs this season to contend with. Still, it's the best chance WSU has. That assumes we have any quarterbacks that can survive the a hit from Vontaze Burfict.
Why ASU might win: It doesn't matter how weak your offense is when your opponent isn't scoring. And the dominating ASU defense could very well shut out the Cougars for the second straight year. In that case, it doesn't matter how much ASU QB Danny Sullivan, or his possible replacement, Brock Osweiler, struggles.
Key Player (ASU): Vontaze Burfict. Since a lot of the Sun Devils' hopes for this game, and this season, ride on their defense, Burfict is going to have to be a key player once again in Pullman. ASU doesn't put a ton of pressure on the quarterback, but they stuff the run game and are able to force turnovers. Burfict is a guy who needs to do just that if ASU wants an easy win Saturday.
Why WSU might win: Can I go with luck? Actually, we may not even need that if the defense can force a few turnovers, just like we saw in the SMU game. If the defense can put a few points on the board - or at the very least skew the field position game - the Cougars might be in better position for a TD or a Grasu field goal attempt. And, little known fact, at least to us recently: you can win games by scoring more points than your opponent.
Key Player (WSU):
That said, Tuel should have a better opportunity to make an impact Saturday. And we, as a fanbase, desperately need some hope to cling on to. That's what Tuel provides. We're not going to give up on him if he throws five interceptions. However, if he plays well, earns us a win or two down the stretch, and makes the plays we know he's capable of making, we're going to see some actual buzz around the program heading into next year. That alone would be incredible.
On Saturday, Tuel doesn't have the benefit of a healthy offensive line or a veteran receiving corps. He's going to have to make some throws beyond his years to give the Cougars a shot. Here's hoping he does.
Pregame activity: Homecoming barbecues. Yes, it's homecoming, and while I have a feeling a lot of alumni aren't exactly amped to see a 1-4 football team, it is an excuse to come back to Pullman for a weekend. That's also why a fair number of programs are offering free food, which totally makes up for those tens of thousands of dollars you dropped there for an education. You're almost crazy if you don't take advantage of it.
Pre- or postgame meal suggestion: Wingers. Those of you who aren't living in the Pullman/Moscow don't understand the tragedy that was the Wingers fire last winter. That event cost us some of the best bar and grill food in the region for maybe nine months. I know, there's Wingers in Spokane and other places, but it's not the same. Apparently you could also get Wingers-type food at Tucci's, which occupies the old Wingers in Moscow, but it's not the same experience without 1,382 TV screens and free popcorn at your table.
So - welcome back Wingers. It was worth the wait.
Travel Tip of the week: I pride myself on the fact I've never received a speeding ticket driving on 195. The strategy is pretty simple: I never, ever, go above 29 in Colfax. Beyond that, you're mostly OK as long as you don't go ten or more over in any other part of the drive. You also have to be familiar with where the cops hide: the Rosalia are, anywhere between Colfax and Steptoe, etc. And if you see a black Dodge Charger in your rearview mirror, slow the heck down.
Why am I telling you this? In most places, speeding tickets are about safety and earning money for the local police. In Colfax, it's all about making tons of money that they can then reinvest in shiny Dodge Chargers to drive around and planes to aid in their never-ending quest to make even more money. I believe 62% of Colfax's economy is based on pulling over people traveling to and from Pullman.
Gametime snack of the week: Junior Mints. It's chocolate, it's peppermint. It's very refreshing.
Gametime beer of the week: Deschutes' Twilight Ale.
Finally, I come to my senses and feature a Northwest beer. From the interwebs:
Twilight Ale is a lighter, but full flavored ale with a balanced malt profile and a harmonious blend of four hops. A final dry hopping of bold Amarillos creates the distinctive finishing touch. Twilight is best enjoyed when chilled and consumed outdoors.
Also, it tastes good.
Only downside: the number of teenagers who will drink this just because it has "Twilight" in the name. Seriously, vampire fad, just die already. You're killing television and movies.
PREDICTION: ASU 24, WSU 13. The fighting Ericksons prevail again, if not by a ton. When I say 13, I mean two TDs and a missed PAT, not one touchdown and two field goals. Sorry, Nico.
Enjoy the game, and as always, go Cougs!